How A New York Program is Reframing Prison Education

By Courtney Subramanian / NationSwell.com  Image courtesy wesleyan.edu

About two hours miles north of Manhattan, a group of young men meet weekly to debate philosophy and discuss composition. The curriculum is like any other liberal arts course, but the classroom is quite different from what most people experience.

These classes take place behind the confines of the Otisville Correctional Facility, a medium security prison in New York where many of its inmates are serving life sentences.

Otisville was the first to implement the Prison to College Pipeline (P2CP), a partnership between the City University of New York (CUNY) and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). Led by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Hostos Community College, the initiative selects inmates who have high school diplomas or GEDs and are eligible for release within five years to enroll as students through a process that includes assessment tests, submitting essays, and sitting down for an interview — much like the traditional college application process.

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