The Fortune Society-Building People, Not Prisons

In our society of overcrowded prisons and drastically cut funding for prison education, it is hopeful to see an organization whose mission it is to support successful reentry into society and to promote alternatives to prison incarceration. Many inmates who are incarcerated have made mistakes in their past and have paid for their mistakes by serving their time in prison. The Fortune Society helps inmates to become positive, contributing members of society.

The Fortune Society was founded in New York state to help reduce recidivism by offering non-traditional reentry services such as: Alternatives to Incarceration, drop-in-services, employment services, education, family services, health and housing services, substance abuse treatment, transitional services, recreation and lifetime aftercare.

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PAWS Cell Dog Training Program


The P.E.T.S (Pawsitive Education Training Solutions) Program, also known as the Cell Dog Program–is to say the least–heart-warming and life-changing. I challenge you to watch the video and not feel tears of warmth, joy, hope and happiness as you watch the stories of both dogs and man realize they have a second chance in society. 


Located within the Kyle Correctional Facility in Austin Texas, the PAWS shelter and Humane Society select timid, abused and neglected dogs to be trained by inmates to become productive and adoptable dogs to the community. 

Inmates must apply and be accepted into the training program and then a professional PAWS dog trainer picks and chooses dogs to be integrated into the six week program. Once the inmates and dog are chosen, they will share their lives together for six weeks–24/7–living, learning and caring for each other.


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The Prison University Project

San Quentin State Prison is known for hardened criminals. Sitting on a point overlooking the lovely skyline of San Francisco in California, San Quentin has a long history. And yet within these prison walls is the Prison University Project.

The mission of the Prison University Project is “to provide excellent higher education programs to people incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison; to create a replicable model for such programs; and to stimulate public awareness and meaningful dialog about higher education and criminal justice in California.”

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Training Wild Horses-Saddle Horse Training Program and Nevada Correctional Facility

The image of a hardened and tattooed prison inmate riding a semi-wild Mustang horse in the deserts of Nevada certainly are not what you would expect to see. Yet, through the Stewart Conservation Camp Saddle Horse Training Program and the Northern Nevada Correctional Facility this unlikely pairing of hardened, imprisoned human and horse are providing worthwhile ranch horses and bringing a sense of self-confidence and worth to prison inmates. 

The Northern Nevada Correctional Center/Stewart Conservation Saddle Horse Training Program is a cooperative partnership between the Bureau of Land Management, the Nevada Department of Corrections and the Nevada Department of Agriculture. 

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The Center for Prison Outreach and Education

The mission statement for The Center for Prison Outreach and Education: 

Providing a Second Chance Through Education.

The belief and statistics show that educated prisoners have a greatly reduced rate of recidivism and make valuable contributions to society upon release from their prison sentence.

Based at the College of New Jersey, The Center for Prison Outreach and Education provides educational programming to local inmates with college professors and students teaching the inmates. The courses offered are credit-bearing and other forms of academic tutoring are available to enrich the lives of those living behind bars.

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Center For Prison Education Through Wesleyan University

In a daring experiment, the very elite Connecticut University, Wesleyan University, has created a fledging, privately funded college prison education program held at the high-security Chesire Correctional Institution located in Connecticut.

One of the reasons that The Center for Prison Education program is unique among other inmate programs, is the rigorous application process. Only fifteen to nineteen students are selected at a time from both Chesire and McDougal Prisons. All selected students are transferred to Chesire Prison where they are then enrolled in accredited college courses taught by Weslyan University faculty members.

Another reason this college prison education program is different from other existing programs, is the CPE (The Center for Prison Education) offers a diverse curriculum of Wesleyan courses in the humanities, and natural and social sciences, which can range from sociology and English to chemistry and psychology. According to Cathy Lechowicz, director of community service and volunteerism and advisor to the CPE program, “the courses will be as rigorous as the courses that are taught on Wesleyan’s regular campus.”

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Yavapai Reentry Program–Helping Arizona Inmates Reenter into Community

Walking out of the doors of prison after being incarcerated can be a very scary time for an ex-prisoner. Thoughts are focused on simple basic survival–where will I live? How will I eat? How will I get a job? Where do I get appropriate clothing and how? For many of these former inmates, it is almost easier to head back into prison than to try and survive post-prison-lacking the education and skills to function in a normal society.

In Yavapai County, Arizona, exists a wonderful organization called Yavapai Reentry Project, a group of non-profit organizations, government offices and community members that have come together to help recently released prisoners transition into society. The Mission Statement for the Yavapai Reentry Program is: “we are a regional support system which promotes successful reintegration of former inmates in a way that improves community safety by reducing criminal behavior.”

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Prison Dharma Network

Many incarcerated prisoners are looking to heal themselves and transform to become a contributing member of society. Options in prison for accomplishing this can be very limiting, creating a downward spiral of lack of confidence and self-worth for the prisoner.

In 1989, a federal prisoner named Fleet Maull, founded the Prison Dharma Network. The mission of the Prison Dharma Network is to provide ” a contemplative support network for prisoners, prison volunteers and corrections professionals. The Prison Dharma Network provides the most effective contemplative tools for self-transformation and rehabilitation.”

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Bedford Hills Correctional Facility College Program for Women

For women inmates, reentry into society can be extremely difficult. Often women returning to society have little education, children and limited job skills. So, for the women incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, having the opportunity to receive a college degree can dramatically change the course of their lives for the better.

In 1996, the Bedford Hills College Program was founded so provide women inmates incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility located in New York State and a maximum security prison for women. In association with the Correctional Facility is Marymount Manhattan College who offers non-credited College-preparatory courses and credit bearing courses that may lead to she women inmates receiving an Associate of Arts degree in Social Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees in Sociology.

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The Saint Louis University Prison Program

Behind the closed and locked doors of the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (ERDCC) in Bonne Terre, Missouri, is the Saint Louis University Prison Program. This is a unique prison education program in that it is Jesuit inspired and not only provides degree programs to incarcerated prisoners, nut also to employees and staff of ERDCC.

Founded in 2008, the Saint Louis University Prison Program began by offering certification in Theological Studies to a mere 15 male prisoners incarcerated at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center. The first class graduated in 2010. And even during these difficult and tumultuous economic times, a grant from the Hearst Foundation in 2010 enabled the Saint Louis University Prison Program to offer an Associate of Arts Degree to both prisoners and prison staff. This is a very generous and heart-felt grant.

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