Mellon Foundation Awards $3.3 Million for Prison Education, Reentry

Mellon Foundation Awards $3.3 Million for Prison Education, Reentry

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has announced grants totaling $3.3 million in support of efforts to strengthen and expand degree-granting programs in the liberal arts for currently and formerly incarcerated students.

Grants were awarded to four prison-education-and-reentry programs, including the Prisoner Reentry Institute at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which offers credit-bearing courses for students at Otisville Correctional Facility who are eligible for release within five years, and Marymount Manhattan College, in support of its AA and BA degree-granting programs at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women; the expansion of those programs to the Taconic Correctional Facilities for Women; and collaborative courses, exhibitions, and workshops designed to forge closer connections between the programs and Marymount's main campus. The foundation also awarded grants to California State University, Los Angeles, in support of its BA program for incarcerated students at Lancaster State Prison and reentry post-release services for students completing their degrees at the university's main campus, and to the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison, a national prison education network that gathers, analyzes, and shares data, research, pedagogical practices, and training.

"We know that higher-education-in-prison programs reduce violence inside prisons, improve incarcerated students' ties with family and community in advance of parole, reduce rates of recidivism, and interrupt the cycle of intergenerational poverty," said Mellon Foundation senior program officer Eugene M. Tobin. "Prison classrooms can and should also be sites of curricular innovation in the humanities and a pipeline for transfer and reintegration services in partnership with universities and philanthropic supporters. College-in-prison programs represent values that should be at the heart of a democratic society."

"Mass incarceration is linked to mass undereducation, but innovative, proven interventions can address both crises," said Mellon Foundation president Elizabeth Alexander. "The Mellon Foundation believes in each and every student's humanity and sees expanding access to higher education in prison as a public good."

(Photo credit: Alliance for Higher Education in Prison)