Two years ago, Reginald Murph was in prison for the second time. Today, he is a sophomore at Rutgers University. He credits Princeton University’s Prison Teaching Initiative with helping give him a second chance.
The Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI) offers credit-earning college courses to inmates at three New Jersey correctional facilities. More than 70 Princeton faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and alumni volunteer to teach classes in English, mathematics, science and other subjects spanning the liberal arts.
Since the program began eight years ago, nearly 500 inmates have earned college credits by taking PTI classes. Credits may be transferred to any community college in New Jersey as well as a handful of public colleges and universities in the state.
“The Princeton classes made me feel like a student. And feeling like a student in prison was a really good feeling,” said Murph, who is studying social work at Rutgers-New Brunswick. “To sit at my desk and really focus on writing an essay. To step outside of myself for an hour and feel like a somewhat normal person.
“I was doing something in prison. I didn’t lose my hope. A lot of people in prison can go backwards, or stay the same. Or you can propel forward,” Murph continued. “Education is necessary to propel forward.”
PTI’s mission is to reduce incarceration and recidivism rates in the state, especially among poor and minority communities, by providing inmates with the education and skills they need to lead productive, intellectually engaged lives while in prison and when they get out.