The success of the Bard Prison Initiative was reinforced this year as the 14th commencement was celebrated last month at the medium-security Woodbourne Correctional Facility in New York. The men’s prison saw 30 students awarded Associate in Arts Degrees – degrees they earned behind bars! BPI graduate Lionel J Johnson recently gave an impassioned…

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It’s not all that often we get the chance to post a strictly “feel good” article on here, so when one comes along I’m going to jump on it. This past week Harvard University’s renowned debating team fell to a surprising opponent: prisoners from the Bard prison initiative! The team was comprised of members of The…

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This past Saturday, 53 inmates at Eastern Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in upstate New York, were awarded college diplomas as part of the Bard Prison Initiative, a program that enables convicted felons to take courses and earn degrees while incarcerated. Among the graduates were newly minted experts in advanced math, literature, and social studies…

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By The Daily Freeman  Bard College’s Max Kenner, the executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), received a 2014 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Education. The award recognizes 10 of the year’s most amazing achievements and the innovators behind them in nine different categories. Kenner created the initiative as an undergraduate at Bard in…

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By Christopher Zoukis

The New York-based Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) is one of the largest prison-based higher education programs of its kind.  While serving their prison sentences, participants study rigorous coursework and work toward earning college degrees.  The program offers access to higher education to both incarcerated men and women who want to pursue their education and increase their chances of finding a good job and enjoying a more rewarding life upon their release.  In this way, the program’s mission is to employ education as a vehicle for change—changing people’s futures and the criminal justice system itself.   Image courtesy www.jjay.cuny.edu

Introduction to the Bard College Prison Program

According to the program’s website, the initiative “enrolls incarcerated women and men in academic programs that lead to degrees from Bard College” (bpi.bard.edu/faqs/).  Courses are instructed by faculty from Bard College as well as other area colleges at five participating prisons.  Participants work to earn Associate of Arts or Bachelor of Arts degrees.  The program offers classes in the arts, humanities, mathematics, and sciences and offers general education coursework that fulfills degree requirements.  An important feature of the program is that coursework is not altered for the prison population. “Incarcerated students are held to identical academic standards as conventional undergraduates at Bard College. The substance of the courses is not tailored to the incarcerated students and is the same as offered on the main Bard campus.”  In this way, incarcerated students receive the same education as if they attended classes outside of prison.

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