Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Tag: Incarceration

San Quentin State Prison and the Prison University Project

A recent NPR story, “Why aren’t there more higher ed programs behind bars?” by Eric Westervelt, highlights the Prison University Project (PUP) at San Quentin State Prison in California. The privately funded program helps inmates attain associate’s degrees. Over 100 instructors from higher education institutions across California donate their time to teach college courses at San Quentin. The inmates pay no tuition or fees and the PUP program provides all necessary materials such as books and writing utensils. Since 1996 140 inmates have earned degrees.

Jerome Boone, a current student of the PUP program, had this to say about the program: “the better we do in here, the better we are when we exit,” he says. “If we come in here and just stay the people we are when we come in, you know, without any growth or insight or any opportunity to better ourselves, we’re gonna get out that same person.”

PUP executive director, Jody Lewen, says that statistics confirm Boone’s comment. According to Lewen, in California, 65% released prisoners return to prison within three years. For PUP participants, only 17% return to prison, and none have returned for violent crime.

Some advocates for higher education in prisons argue that small investments save money in the long run. In the article, Lois Davis, a researcher for the RAND Corporation, explains that her research “has found that participation in any level of education behind bars reduced risk of being re-incarcerated by 13 percent.” She goes on to say that “for every dollar invested in a prison education program it will ultimately save taxpayers between four and five dollars in re-incarceration costs.”

The video below profiles the PUP Program.

To read “Why aren’t there more higher ed programs behind bars?” click here.

To read about the Prison University Project click here.

Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Incarcerated Individuals

Image from: Equal Justice Initiative

Image from: Equal Justice Initiative

At the end of July, the U.S. Department of Education announced that some incarcerated Americans will once again have the opportunity to be eligible for Pell Grants. In 1994 federal student aid for people in prison was cut, despite research that shows that education programs in prisons reduce recidivism rates. According to a 2013 study, funded by the Department of Justice, those who participated in correctional education were 43% less likely to go back to prison after being released for three years, than those who had no correctional education. The Second Chance Pell Pilot Program will test ways to help incarcerated individuals receive Pell Grants and pursue secondary education.

For more information, read the press release from the Department of Education here.

To read the Equal Justice Initiative’s post about this click here.