Bard Prison Initiative Featured on 60 Minutes Sunday, April 15.
The Bard Prison Initiative was founded in 1999 by Kenner. It provides opportunities for higher education inside the prisons of New York State. “A college education dramatically reduces the rate at which students return to prison after release and spreads the benefits of higher education into many of New York’s most isolated communities,” Kenner says. “It reduces crime, saves the state’s money, and offers the opportunity for incarcerated New Yorkers to use their time in a way that is productive for themselves and our communities.”
BPI offers a Bard College education inside four New York state prisons: the maximum-security Eastern and Elmira Correctional Facilities and the medium-security Woodbourne and Bayview Correctional Facilities. Bayview, located in Manhattan, is one of the five state prisons for women in New York. Among these four prison campuses, BPI now enrolls over 100 prisoners full time in rigorous and diverse liberal arts courses. The next BPI graduation will take place in June 2008 at Woodbourne Correctional Facility. The fourth commencement of the initiative will be the first one to award Bard College bachelor’s as well as associate’s degrees.
BPI also makes important contributions to the intellectual life of the main Bard College campus in Annandale-on-Hudson. Each week campus students visit regional prisons as volunteers. They teach a variety of precollege workshops in the arts and support a range of basic educational programs run by New York State. Bard alumni/ae have gone on to help build similar volunteer organizations across the country. Bard College faculty from across the disciplines travel regularly to the prisons to teach, as do professors from other regional universities. With the support of a major, three-year grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education, Bard is now developing and offering a new curriculum on criminal justice and American civics to all of its students, in particular those who volunteer with BPI inside regional prisons.
“This initiative makes a profound contribution to the lives of all of those whose fates intersect in our prison system, including teachers, volunteers, administrators, and incarcerated students and their families,” says Karpowitz, the program’s academic director. “The impact can be transformative and holds out the promise of change that will reverberate among future generations. The Bard Prison Initiative challenges and expands our sense of community, and its successes are a tribute to an extraordinary collaboration between the college, the government of the State of New York, and our students.”
For over 20 years, college-in-prison programs slashed rates of reincarceration from 60 percent to less than 15 percent. They were the most cost-effective form of public correctional spending. Despite these facts, funding for prison colleges was eliminated in 1995, at the peak of the “tough-on-crime” frenzy in American electoral politics. BPI is one of only a handful of existing programs of its kind left in United States.
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Link to CBS News 60 Minutes Report
This event was last updated on 10-27-2008