Christia Mercer on teaching in prison

in the Washington Post.

Things have not always been this bad. In the 1980’s, when the prison population sat below 400,000, our  incarcerated citizens were educated through state and federal funding. But the 1990’s brought an abrupt end to government support. When President Clinton signed into law the Crime Bill in 1994, he eliminated incarcerated people’s eligibility for federal Pell grants and sentenced a generation of incarcerated Americans to educational deprivation. Nationwide, over 350 college programs in prisons were shut down that year. Many states jumped on the tough-on-crime bandwagon and slashed state funded prison educational programs. In New York State, for example, no state funds can be used to support secondary-education in prison. Before 1994, there were 70 publicly funded post-secondary prison programs in the state. Now there are none. In many states across the country, college instruction has fallen primarily to volunteers.

3 thoughts on “Christia Mercer on teaching in prison

  1. Thanks so much to Christia Mercer for this piece and the great work described in it. Although nowhere near enough, I know of several such programs in various places around the country. There is an excellent CBS news piece on what is now the Bard Prison Initiative:… Maximum Security Education: Inmates Graduate Bard – truly worth all 12 minutes and 19 seconds!

    Please watch that whole video in the previous link! As part of the related Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, here is one more that looks excellent: The Wesleyan University Center for Prison Education. Please share experiences and/or more info in additional comments…

  2. I hope people realize the profound importance of Mercer’s article. I have great respect for the professors who participate in these programs. Thanks also to David Slutsky for providing those links. I happen to work at the maximum security correctional facility that is focused on in the CBS news video. I have worked closely with inmates who participate in the college program and those who do not, as well as those who began the program after having known them for a period of time. The differences the college programs make are indeed real. Real for the inmates, for their families, and countless others (neighbors, co-workers, employees, employers, to name a few). Kudos to all the professors teaching inmates in other prison programs I was very happy to learn about from the links.

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