Bard News & Events

Press Release

Bard Prison Initiative Awarded $750,000 Matching Grant from The Tow Foundation to Reestablish Women’s Program

New Women’s Program Will Launch this Fall at Taconic Correctional Facility

Darren O'Sullivan
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – The Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) has received a five-year, $750,000 matching grant from The Tow Foundation to support BPI’s efforts to reestablish Bard’s program for incarcerated women. BPI provides incarcerated men and women in five New York State prisons the opportunity to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentences. The program, the largest of its kind in the United States, has awarded 250 degrees and educated more than 500 students. BPI’s program for incarcerated women began in 2006 at Bayview Correctional Facility in Chelsea in lower Manhattan and has enrolled more than 100 women, many of whom have gone on to further academic study and leadership positions in social-change agencies and private businesses. Bayview was evacuated following Hurricane Sandy and subsequently closed by the state. The new program will be launched this fall at Taconic Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, N.Y., and continue to offer rigorous liberal arts courses leading to A.A. degrees, as well as provide reentry support.

“We are inspired by The Tow Foundation’s leadership in this field and by its commitment to bring rigorous and meaningful educational opportunities to places where such opportunities are absent,” said Max Kenner ’01, BPI founder and executive director. “We at BPI are humbled by Tow’s direct support of our work on behalf of incarcerated women. The Tow Foundation’s generosity will enable us to restore Bard’s college-in-prison for women and continue to enroll hundreds of women in life-changing educational programs in the years to come.”

The Tow Foundation, a family foundation located in Connecticut, structures grants that provide leverage to the recipients, making possible things that are far greater than what could be achieved alone. Investments focus on support of innovative programs in the areas of groundbreaking medical research, cultural institutions, higher education, and vulnerable children and families, with a concentrated initiative on juvenile justice reform.  For more information, visit

Founded in 1999, the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) provides incarcerated men and women in five New York State prisons the opportunity to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentences. The academic standards and workload are rigorous, based on an unusual mix of attention to developmental skills and ambitious college study. The rate of post-release employment among the program’s participants is high and recidivism is stunningly low. By challenging incarcerated men and women with a liberal arts education, BPI works to redefine the relationship between educational opportunity and criminal justice. BPI enrolls nearly 250 incarcerated men and women across a full spectrum of academic disciplines, and offers approximately 55 courses each semester at five New York State maximum and medium security prisons for men and women.

Graduates of the BPI program have consistently succeeded after release from prison. Some have chosen to work in human service organizations, serving people with AIDS, or become professional counselors for residents in city-based alternatives to incarceration. Several alumni/ae have worked their way up into management positions in an innovative, for-profit electronics recycling company. Other graduates have continued their educations, earning scholarships and working toward additional academic and professional degrees at top universities, including Columbia, NYU, CUNY, and the Yale Divinity School. As former President Bill Clinton observed in his book Giving, BPI “is a good investment in a safer, more productive society.”

Since its founding, BPI has expanded its reach nationally. BPI established The Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison in 2009 to support innovative college-in-prison programs throughout the country. Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Grinnell College in Iowa, Goucher College in Maryland, and, most recently, Holy Cross College and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana have launched programs. Plans are underway to expand in two more states this year. For more information on BPI, please visit 

# # #


back to top

This event was last updated on 07-22-2013