Expanding Opportunities for Education & Employment for College Students in Prison

Posted in: News

Posted on February 1, 2024

Decades of research point to the benefits of college in prison, including reduced recidivism and improved employment outcomes following release. Even for those who have not yet been released, these programs foster a sense of community and purpose that can also lead to safer prison environments. Many people enter prison undereducated due to systemic disinvestment in education over the past 50 years, particularly in racial minority neighborhoods. All told, about one in three incarcerated adults have less than a high school equivalence (HSE), earned prior to or during incarceration, compared to 14 percent of the general public.

Despite the benefits of college in prison, policies and practices over the past two decades have limited the availability of postsecondary educational programs in prisons, including federal and state tuition grants. To supplement this, in 2017, former Governor Andrew Cuomo, former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), and CUNY ISLG established the College-in-Prison Reentry Initiative (CIP).

A $7.3 million investment, CIP aimed to build a partnership to provide more individuals with the opportunity to achieve a quality education, with the goal of increase their likelihood of success in the community after release. It had four primary goals:

  1. Provide funding to local colleges and universities to enroll more students, offer more courses, and expand degree programs, including in facilities that previously did not offer college in prison;
  2. Establish shared program/curricular standards, align common course requirements and offerings, and in so doing, enable the transfer of credits between funded programs and institutions;
  3. Strengthen the reentry support infrastructure; and
  4. Exchange best practices and provide technical assistance for college in prison statewide.

CIP funded seven colleges and universities to deliver college instruction across 17 prisons in New York from Fall 2017 through Spring 2022. CUNY ISLG conducted a multiyear process evaluation of the Initiative to assess its implementation. This report, the culmination of data reviews, site visits, and interviews with education providers, corrections staff, CIP students, and others, breaks down the successes and challenges the program faces, as well as offers lessons learned for others seeking to implement quality college-in-prison programs.

See CUNY ISLG’s blog for high-level takeaways from the report as well as the recommendations it offers education providers, corrections, and other stakeholders.

Download the full report.

Download the executive summary.

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