Date of Degree

5-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Lucia Trimbur

Subject Categories

Prison Education and Reentry

Abstract

Despite the demonstrated effectiveness of workforce development programming overall, and college programs in particular, in reducing recidivism and increasing post-release employment, the current landscape of such programming in the New York State prison system is fragmented, disconnected from employment opportunities, and serving too few people.

Given the role of the state in creating and maintaining the structure of mass incarceration, and the history of discrimination and segregation in the country and on college campuses, the public university system has a responsibility to provide educational opportunities to disenfranchised populations. The withholding of education – via the crumbling and deteriorating public school systems in many impoverished neighborhoods, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the current dearth of carceral education programming – is effectively the modern iteration of the antebellum laws that criminalized educating African Americans. For many incarcerated individuals, educational services provided in prison are the first real chance for education that they will ever receive.

This thesis begins with a review of the impacts and benefits to various stakeholders of education and training programming in prisons, outlines a brief history of correctional education and funding sources, and then surveys the current landscape of prison-based workforce development and college-in-prison programming. Finally, this thesis proposes a model for a comprehensive, statewide program and includes recommendations for the structure and financing of such a system.

By drawing on best practices from the few successful prison education programs in New York and around the country, the foundation for this proposed model is built upon a collaboration of the state prison system and the state’s public college and university systems. This statewide, public college-in-prison program would allow incarcerated and non-incarcerated students to participate in a new credit-bearing, degree-granting program that combines a general education foundation with in-demand labor market skills (i.e. general education requirements paired with certificate programs in a field such as welding). Classes would be co-located in the prisons so that more traditional students and incarcerated students learn together and receive the same level of instruction. This prepares incarcerated students for class (and life) outside of prison walls and gives non-incarcerated students exposure to our nation’s system of mass incarceration, as well as ensuring that the credits earned by incarcerated students transfer to any public institution of higher education upon the student’s release.

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