Bard Prison Initiative Awarded $150,000 Grant From the New York Community Trust to Support Women’s Program
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – The Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) has received a $150,000 three-year grant from the New York Community Trust to fund undergraduate college degree courses and reentry support for BPI’s program for incarcerated women. BPI provides incarcerated women and men across six New York State prisons the opportunity to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentences. The largest program of its kind in the United States, BPI 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. Following the closure of Bayview this past spring, BPI reestablished its college-in-prison program at Taconic Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, New York and is engaged in efforts to expand college-degree opportunities for incarcerated women.
“The New York Community Trust grant enables BPI to restore and expand its rigorous college degree program for incarcerated women,” said Max Kenner ’01, Bard Prison Initiative founder and executive director. “We’re honored to partner with a venerable New York foundation, which is committed to helping our students and their families.”
Since 1924, The New York Community Trust has been the home of charitable New Yorkers who share a passion for the city and its suburbs—and who are committed to improving them. The Trust supports an array of effective nonprofits that help make the city, Westchester, and Long Island vital and secure places to live and work, while building permanent resources for the future. The New York Community Trust ended 2012 with assets of $2.1 billion in more than 2,000 charitable funds, and made grants totaling $136 million. The Trust welcomes new donors. For more information, visit nycommunitytrust.org.
Founded in 1999, the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) provides incarcerated men and women in New York State the opportunity to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentences. The academic standards and workload are rigorous, based on ambitious college study. The rate of postrelease employment among the program’s participants is high and recidivism is stunningly low. By providing incarcerated individuals with a liberal arts education, BPI works to redefine the relationship between educational opportunity and criminal justice. BPI enrolls 275 incarcerated men and women across a full spectrum of academic disciplines, and offers more than 60 courses each semester at six 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 under way to expand to up to four more states this academic year. For more information on BPI, please visit bpi.bard.edu.
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