Date of Award

Fall 12-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Criminal Justice



First Advisor

Jeff Mellow

Second Reader

Core Rowe


Offering college-level coursework to people in correctional facilities has proven to be a good investment in reducing recidivism and violence, however, how incarcerated students evaluate ‘prison to college pipeline’ programs, and how they access education after release is less understood. This study is a participant-observation approach with semi-structured surveys of a college class in Rikers Island that aims to answer the question: How do incarcerate students describe their experience with college in jail and their post-release plans to continue their education? This study uses 25 surveys of persons who participated in a college program in Rikers Island. A significant theme that emerged in this research is the question of whether college in jail can be seen as a pipeline to college post-release. This study shows a path to college post-release is complicated by other factors, including the experience of reentry itself. This study takes a different approach to evaluate the benefits of college courses in jail by using College Way (a current college education program at Rikers Island), surveys of the participants, and my observations coordinating this program for the past three years. The qualitative research serves as an exploratory study of what challenges emerge when aiming to provide higher education to incarcerated students and why, despite their success in college during jail, none of the students seem able to connect to college post-release. This study will offer an analysis of how incarcerated students describe their experience with college and why few seem able to continue their education post-release.



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