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Bard Prison Initiative Holds Commencement Ceremony at Eastern Correctional Facility

Rev. Dr. William Barber II delivering the address at BPI's 18th commencement.
Photo: Karen Pearson
The Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) celebrated its 18th commencement Saturday, January 19, at Eastern New York Correctional Facility in Napanoch, New York. Bard College awarded associate in arts and bachelor of arts degrees to 59 students, bringing the total number of Bard degrees awarded to BPI students to 544.
The Rev. Dr. William Barber II, social activist and national cochair of the 2018 Poor People’s Campaign, delivered the commencement address. Bard College President Leon Botstein gave the charge to the graduates, and the Rev. George T. Chochos ’10, a BPI alumnus and graduate of the Yale Divinity School, delivered the invocation and benediction.
In his address, Dr. Barber told graduates that “a disappointing and dark yesterday is not the end,” and exhorted them to assume the mantle of civic leadership in confronting poverty and injustice.

Since 2001, the Bard Prison Initiative has provided college opportunity inside the prisons of New York State. Begun as a pilot program with 15 students, BPI now enrolls 300 men and women inside three maximum-security prisons—Coxsackie, Eastern New York, and Green Haven—and three medium-security prisons—Fishkill, Taconic, and Woodbourne. In partnership with the government of the State of New York, Bard’s academic presence within the prison system has increased dramatically in breadth, depth, and scale: by the end of this year, the College will have awarded more than 600 degrees to students enrolled through the BPI. The Bard Prison Initiative challenges and expands our sense of community, and its success is a tribute to an extraordinary collaboration among the College, students, and government of the State of New York. For more information, visit: bpi.bard.edu.
Post Date: 01-19-2019