Prison Education Initiative
The Prison Education Initiative brings Bennington College faculty to Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a maximum-security men's prison in Comstock, NY. To date, the program has offered credited courses to over 30 students in the subjects of literature, social research, political theory, social psychology, and U.S. history, as well as tutorial sessions and a College Preparatory course to increase every student's chance of success in the program.
In April 2014, a panel of educators convened at Bennington to exchange ideas and practical advice around the topic of what liberal arts colleges can contribute to higher education in prisons, and what that contribution can mean for both the incarcerated and for the participating colleges. This convening led to the creation of the Prison Education Initiative (PEI) at Bennington College, which launched in fall 2015 at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York.
This program responds to the urgent need for incarceration reform in this country. The 1994 Crime Bill withdrew all financial support for incarcerated students, yet the benefits of such education are clear: higher education in prison reduces the likelihood of recidivism and improves the ability of those released to find employment. Every dollar spent on adult college education programs saves the taxpayer between $4 and $5. Beyond recidivism, PEI is investing in additional metrics to better understand the broad impact of college education on prison communities.
PEI is a member of the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison at Bard College, and is made possible through collaboration with the Incarceration in America initiative through CAPA, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and Great Meadow Correctional Facility. The program is funded by Bennington College, the Harry J. Brown Jr. Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education (through the Second Chance Pell program), and other private donors.
June 19, 2017 – The Future of Higher Education in Prison
August 28, 2016 – Great Meadow Program is a Model for Inmate Education
August 21, 2016 – Books Behind Bars: Great Meadow Inmates See School as Second Chance
December 4, 2015 – Bennington Gears up for its Prison Education Initiative