Courtesy of Northwestern Now
The Northwestern Prison Education Program received a $1 million grant to expand educational opportunities for incarcerated people. The program began in 2018 and continues to offer courses for college credit at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Ill. [
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will provide the grant over the next three years. The money will go toward admitting more students to the program, extending the courses to minimum-security prisons and investments in re-entry programs for students once they are released from prison. In addition, funding will go toward the launch of the first college education program for incarcerated women in Illinois.
Jennifer Lackey, a philosophy professor at NU and director of NPEP, has been teaching courses at Stateville for the past six years. NPEP is the first educational program in prisons to provide college degrees based upon a liberal arts curriculum, including courses in a range of disciplines, including social sciences, fine arts, humanities, and STEM.
Studies have shown that although approximately two-thirds of previously incarcerated people will return to prison within three years, receiving education in prison reduces that rate by 43 percent. Additionally, the higher the degree earned, the lower the re-arrest rate is. For those with an associate degree, re-arrest rate is 14 percent; it’s 5.6 percent for those with a bachelor’s degree, and zero percent for those with a master’s degree.
Prison-education programs also increase the probability of breaking a cycle of intergenerational poverty and incarceration.
Lackey hopes to expand the program beyond offering educational opportunities, and onto exploring solutions to America’s mass incarceration problem. She hopes to collaborate with NU Pritzker School of Law, the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities and other prison education programs across the country.
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