The United States has the highest documented rate of incarceration in the world, a rate that has increased by 500 percent in the past 40 years. In response to this crisis, Bennington College launched the Incarceration in America initiative. This growing initiative includes curriculum, visiting speakers, theatrical events, think tanks, and retreats to develop public policy and political action in the post-tough-on-crime era. See past events.

This spring, Bennington will continue the initiative with three events.


  • Title | The Castle
  • Date | March 17, 2015
  • Time | 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:30 pm)
  • Location | Bennington College, VAPA D207
  • Contact |

Created and directed by David Rothenberg, founder of The Fortune Society, The Castle tells the real-life stories of the cast, made up of four formerly imprisoned New Yorkers. With a total of 60 years of incarceration among them, the cast shares their journeys through adversity, crime, and redemption.

Open to the public. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Think Tank

  • Title | Higher Education in Prisons
  • Date | April 11, 2015
  • Time | TBA
  • Location | Bennington College, CAPA Symposium
  • Contact |

Higher education in prison improves the ability of those released to find employment, and greatly reduces the likelihood of recidivism. Every dollar spent on adult college education programs saves the taxpayer approximately five dollars. Since the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill, prison inmates are no longer eligible for Pell Grants, and the responsibility of such higher education as still exists in prisons has fallen to colleges and universities, usually partly underwritten by the private sector. On April 11, a panel of experts will convene at Bennington to discuss the ways in which liberal arts colleges contribute to higher education in prisons, and what that contribution may mean for both the incarcerated and for the participating colleges.

Spring 2015 Conference

  • Title | Effecting Change
  • Dates | May 15–16, 2015
  • Location | Bennington College, CAPA Symposium
  • Contact |

On May 15–16, Bennington will hold the second conference in its Incarceration in America series: Effecting Change. Taking place at the College’s Center for the Advancement of Public Action, the conference will include panelists who will discuss recent innovative and effective programs that contribute to the reform of America’s flawed incarceration and criminal justice system. In an effort to engage student communities in issues of incarceration across the nation, Effecting Change also aims to draw student leaders and newspaper editors from universities and colleges in the Northeast.


Friday, May 15, 2015

  • Welcome by Elizabeth Coleman | 1:00 pm
  • Public Health/Mental Health | 2:00 pm
  • Collateral Consequences | 4:00 pm

Saturday, May 16, 2015

  • Public Defense/Prisoners' Rights | 10:30 am
  • Public Action and Messaging | 1:30 pm