The Goucher Prison Education Program

By Christopher Zoukis

Providing educational access to inmates of two Maryland prisons is the cornerstone of the Goucher Prison Education Program (GPEP).  Faculty from Goucher College provides on-site instruction for inmates of the Maryland Correctional Center for Women and the Maryland Correctional Facility -Jessup.  The coursework is associated with the rigorous standards that the college is well-known for.  Goucher College faculty also provides college preparatory coursework that helps ready inmates for college classes but require some secondary skills first.  Image courtesy

The Partnership

GPEP is a small initiative as far as prison education programs go; however, even with its sixty students, the program has big potential for changing lives and reducing recidivism.  Moreover, by working with a small population, the college may better be able to refine the program.  If it can be shown to be successful, it has the potential to be a model for other prison education programs and may even be expanded.  The partnership between the prison and the college demonstrates that there is acknowledgement for this segment of the community at large and that there is a need to promote education as a vehicle for change. 

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The Bard Prison Initiative: Reducing Recidivism and Changing Lives

By Christopher Zoukis

The New York-based Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) is one of the largest prison-based higher education programs of its kind.  While serving their prison sentences, participants study rigorous coursework and work toward earning college degrees.  The program offers access to higher education to both incarcerated men and women who want to pursue their education and increase their chances of finding a good job and enjoying a more rewarding life upon their release.  In this way, the program’s mission is to employ education as a vehicle for change—changing people’s futures and the criminal justice system itself.   Image courtesy

Introduction to the Bard College Prison Program

According to the program’s website, the initiative “enrolls incarcerated women and men in academic programs that lead to degrees from Bard College” (  Courses are instructed by faculty from Bard College as well as other area colleges at five participating prisons.  Participants work to earn Associate of Arts or Bachelor of Arts degrees.  The program offers classes in the arts, humanities, mathematics, and sciences and offers general education coursework that fulfills degree requirements.  An important feature of the program is that coursework is not altered for the prison population. “Incarcerated students are held to identical academic standards as conventional undergraduates at Bard College. The substance of the courses is not tailored to the incarcerated students and is the same as offered on the main Bard campus.”  In this way, incarcerated students receive the same education as if they attended classes outside of prison.

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San Quentin’s Prison University Project

By Christopher Zoukis

San Quentin’s Prison University Project is a Liberal Arts-based college program that currently boasts more than 300 inmates enrolled in classes.  The project is an extension of Patten University, an accredited university of Oakland, California.  Supported by the Prison University Project, the San Quentin program offers courses Sunday-Friday.  Inmates who are enrolled in the project typically take two classes each semester and work toward their Associate of Arts degree.  For those students who are not yet ready to enroll in college-level coursework, the project also includes college-preparatory classes.

About the Prison University Project

Founded in 1996, the Prison University Project began with a mere two classes and a single coordinator working on a volunteer basis.  Today, the program’s faculty continues on a volunteer basis.  Funding is obtained through donations from both private individuals and foundations.  To date, more than one hundred inmates have earned their Associates Degree.  Though many are released from prison on parole, they often continue their studies nonetheless.  The program includes courses in English, Math, Science, Humanities, and Social Sciences.  Although a high school diploma or GED are prerequisites for enrollment in the program, many enrollees still require preparatory coursework before entering the Associate of Arts program.  Image courtesy

Faculty and Staff

Since the project’s early days when it relied on one coordinator, the Prison University Project now boasts ten staff members who operate the program daily.  Staff members also oversee budgetary aspects of the program and participate in advocacy events for higher learning in prisons.  Since this program began nearly two decades ago as a response to the government’s cutting of prison education programs, it has steadily grown by building its own support base and working with publishers who often donate the project’s text books or other learning materials.

Each faculty member volunteers their time to teach the prison inmates who participate in both the college preparatory and Associates of Arts programs.  According to the project’s website,

“Most of the volunteer instructors, teaching assistants, guest lecturers and tutors who participate in the College Program are graduate students or faculty from the University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco State University, Stanford University, and other local colleges and universities. All primary instructors hold at least a master’s degree in the field in which they teach.”

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Michigan Works to Get Some Inmates Higher Education

By Associated Press The Michigan Department of Corrections is working on several efforts to teach community college courses and vocational training in-house to a small number of inmates near parole. Photo courtesy The effort comes after years without funding

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