Dwayne Betts at Great Meadow

Bennington College Prison Education Initiative

The Prison Education Initiative (PEI) brings Bennington College faculty to Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a maximum-security men's prison in Comstock, New York. Our mission is threefold:

  • to provide a quality liberal arts undergraduate education to incarcerated students
  • to support lifelong learning in men and women serving life sentences
  • to foster transformative conversations around prison reform in America
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Prison Education Initiative

Since PEI’s inception in 2015, the program has served more than 100 students at Great Meadow Correctional Facility, offering courses in literature, philosophy, social research, history of thought, architecture, political theory, social psychology, math, computer programming, drawing, Latin, and U.S. and world history.

Interviews with Class of '22 Graduates

PEI celebrated its first graduation at Great Meadow eight years after the program launched; eleven students were awarded their Bennington College Associate of Arts degrees. Here are a few of their stories:

Jason B, a PEI 2022 graduate
Jason B.
Victor B., a 2022 graduate of the PEI program
Victor B.
Terrance C., a 2022 graduate of the PEI program
Terrance C.
Joseph K., a 2022 graduate of the PEI program
Joseph K.
Greg Mingo, a PEI 2022 graduate
Greg M.
Jason S. a PEI 2022 graduate in a green sweater
Jason S.
Prison education initiative class session

“I no longer take literature classes for a grade or a degree. I take them out of love for the art and unquestionable wealth of brilliance I get from being a student.”

—PEI student, 2018

PEI student in green hat looking at bookshelf and smiling

“I found the class both enjoyable and illuminating and have left it with a deeper appreciation of democracy, the concept of popular rule, and for political theory itself…Given the opportunity to be treated as a person and to be challenged has helped me to feel as I still have some value as a human being.”

—PEI student, 2017

PEI graduating class picture, '22

Class of 2022—PEI’s first graduation at Great Meadow Correctional Facility

Dwayne Betts poetry reading at Great Meadow

Reginald Dwayne Betts—poet, lawyer and founder and director of Freedom Reads—speaking to PEI students at Great Meadow on December 1, 2022.