Prison Education Initiative Celebrates $100,000 Grant from Mother Cabrini Health Foundation
Bennington College’s Prison Education Initiative (PEI) has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation to continue and expand a program bringing quality liberal arts education to incarcerated students at Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a maximum-security men’s prison in Comstock, NY.
“We are truly grateful for the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation’s financial support,” said Annabel Davis-Goff, Director and Co-Founder of PEI. “This grant allows crucial funding to continue course development. It will make a direct impact on the lives of our students and their families.”
PEI’s goals are to promote education as a lifelong pursuit and to serve both those who will one day reenter society and those who will spend their lives in prison.
“Inmates serving long sentences tend to be leaders in the incarcerated community and have a strong influence over their peers,” said Davis-Goff. “When these leaders participate in quality educational opportunities, they encourage others to pursue education as well.”
Education improves inmates’ overall quality of life, enhances coping skills, shapes more positive relationships, and increases students’ chances of clemency or geriatric parole. Education also relates to a reduction in violence and disruptive behavior.
Beyond the immediate impact for the students themselves, the program also serves to break the cycle of poverty and incarceration. According to a 2018 report by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, one of every 12 American children has had a parent incarcerated. Incarceration correlates with negative social, health, and economic outcomes for prisoners’ families.
Education in prisons can mitigate some aspects of the damage caused to youth. The Vera Institute of Justice found that when incarcerated parents complete college, their children are also more likely to do so. Education disrupts a cycle of poverty and incarceration. Additionally, low-income, Black, and Latinx families have long suffered from substantially higher rates of incarceration than other groups while also having less access to higher education.
“For incarcerated students, a quality education with proper supportive services can be life-changing. Bennington College’s Prison Education Initiative not only offers a wide-range of classes, but also access to the indispensable academic advising and guidance to help students succeed,” said Daniel Frascella, Chief Programs and Grants Officer at the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. “The Foundation’s grant to expand PEI’s programming enables them to continue improving the health and wellbeing of underserved, incarcerated New Yorkers.”
During 2023, PEI will offer 24 courses for an estimated 45 students. In addition to expanding course offerings, the grant will aid in upgrading classroom technology, increasing administrative capacity to meet the needs of the growing program.
Students receive a solid educational foundation that includes analytic writing, basic STEM skills, and an introduction to the social sciences. Participants who complete the entire course of 60 credits receive an associate’s degree in liberal arts.
About the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation
The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization with the mission to improve the health and well-being of the vulnerable New Yorkers, bolster the health outcomes of targeted communities, eliminate barriers to care, and bridge gaps in health services. The Foundation – which is named in memory of a tireless advocate for immigrants, children, and the poor – provides flexible support for new and innovative approaches that enhance health and wellness across New York State. For more information, visit cabrinihealth.org.