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 		 [Today, only a third of all prisons provide ways for incarcerated
people to continue their educations beyond high school. ]
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 TURN PRISONS INTO COLLEGES  
[https://portside.org/2018-03-14/turn-prisons-colleges] 

 

 Elizabeth Hinton 
 March 6, 2018
New York Times
[https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/06/opinion/prisons-colleges-education.html]


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 _ Today, only a third of all prisons provide ways for incarcerated
people to continue their educations beyond high school. _ 

 A Prison University Project student working on an assignment in study
hall at San Quentin State Prison., R. J. Lozada 

 

Imagine if prisons looked like the grounds of universities. Instead of
languishing in cells, incarcerated people sat in classrooms and
learned about climate science or poetry — just like college
students. Or even with them.

This would be a boon to prisoners across the country, a vast majority
of whom do not have a high school diploma. And it could help shrink
our prison population. While racial disparities in arrests and
convictions are alarming, education level is a far stronger predictor
of future incarceration than race.

The idea is rooted in history. In the 1920s, Howard Belding Gill, a
criminologist and a Harvard alumnus, developed a college-like
community at the Norfolk State Prison Colony in Massachusetts, where
he was the superintendent. Prisoners wore normal clothing,
participated in cooperative self-government with staff, and took
academic courses with instructors from Emerson, Boston University and
Harvard. They ran a newspaper, radio show and jazz orchestra, and they
had access to an extensive library.

Norfolk had such a good reputation, Malcolm X asked to be transferred
there from Charlestown State Prison in Boston so, as he wrote in his
petition, he could use “the educational facilities that aren’t in
these other institutions.” At Norfolk, “there are many things that
I would like to learn that would be of use to me when I regain my
freedom.” After Malcolm X’s request was granted, he joined the
famous Norfolk Debate Society, through which inmates connected to
students at Harvard and other universities.

Researchers from the Bureau of Prisons emulated this model when they
created a prison college project in the 1960s. It allowed incarcerated
people throughout the country to serve their sentences at a single
site, designed like a college campus, and take classes full-time.
Although the project was never completed, San Quentin State Prison in
California created a scaled-down version with support from the Ford
Foundation, and it was one of the few prisons then that offered higher
education classes.

Today, only a third of all prisons provide ways for incarcerated
people to continue their educations beyond high school. But the San
Quentin Prison University Project remains one of the country’s most
vibrant educational programs for inmates, so much so President Barack
Obama awarded it a National Humanities Medal in 2015 for the quality
of its courses.

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