I Coached the West Point Debate Team That Lost to Prison Students. What We Learned Was Invaluable.
May 4, 2016
U.S. Military Academy's (West Point) assistant professor of American Politics and debate team coach, Adam Scher, gives his perspective on how the debates between West Point cadets and BPI students contribute to the development of future army officers by generating trust and breaking down barriers that divide communities.
April 4, 2016
BPI Founder, Max Kenner, Honored with Disruptive Innovation Award
Max Kenner '01, Bard College alumnus and Bard Prison Initiative founder and executive director, has been named an honoree of the Tribeca Film Festival's 2016 Disruptive Innovation Awards.
Max Kenner Interviewed on The Business of Giving
March 13, 2016
BPI's executive director, Max Kenner, was interviewed by Denver Frederick on the weekly radio show The Business of Giving. The program is the only show of its kind that focuses on solutions for today's complex social problems, addressing important and relevant issues such as matters related to education.
Max Kenner Named One of the Chronicle of Philanthropy's 40 Under 40
January 5, 2016
At a time when many people question the value of a liberal-arts education, Max Kenner believes — fervently — that studying the humanities and sciences can transform lives. With the growing agreement among both liberals and conservatives about the need to overhaul the criminal-justice system, there’s a real possibility for long-term policy change, says Kenner. The Bard Prison Initiative will be a strong advocate, he says, pushing for dignified, rigorous education to be part of the solution.
The Sydney Morning Herald Features BPI After Their Visit to Fishkill Correctional Facility
January 8, 2016
The Bard Prison Initiative made global headlines in 2015 when a team of inmates beat Harvard in a debate. That win was a small victory against what Max Kenner - who founded BPI in 1999 while a student at Bard - describes as the destructive policies of mass incarceration in the United States, and was an event that opened a door to show a link between incarceration and education in America.
Why Republicans Should Support Obama's Pell Grants for Prisoners Editorial
August 6, 2015
Governor Chris Christie has spoken elequently about second chances and redemption. So have a number of his competitors in the Republican presidential race, including Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and Rick Perry. They were talking about diverting more addicts to drug court, or the senselessness of mandatory minimum prison sentences. The question now is whether they and others in their party will see President Obama's new pilot program to offer Pell grants for college education to prisoneers as part of that same rehabilitative story.
Joan Osborne, Singer and Songwriter, Supports BPI
March 7, 2016
Joan Osborne, seven-time Grammy nominee, announced to People that her 4th annual Mother's Day Benefit Concert will be in support of the Bard Prison Initiative. The concert will be held on May 8 at City Winery in New York City.
College Behind Bars: More Funders Are Stepping Up
August 3, 2015
More than two decades of a get-tough approach to crime have swelled the nation's prison population to more than 1.6 million people. However, studies have shown that education programs for prisoners reduce recidivism. A shift in criminal justice policies in some states has helped fuel a growth in educational opportunities behind bars, but this is not news to the Ford Foundation or the Open Society Foundations, which are longtime supporters of BPI.
July 31, 2015
The New York Times Heralds the Work of BPI
The Obama administration created a pilot program that will allow a limited number of inmates to receive federal Pell grants to take college courses behind bars. It will last three-to-five years and be open to inmates who are eligible for release, giving priority to those scheduled to be released within the next five years. College prison programs, such as BPI, have more than proved their worth and the Pell grant pilot program will highlight the need for a broad new policy at the federal level.
Educate to Rehabilitate
September 22, 2015
Education shouldn't be a last ditch effort to save someone from a life of crime - it should be the very first step. In a storyline worthy of Hollywood, three inmates of a maximum-security facility in New York debated their way to victory over Harvard University undergrads on Friday, September 18. Those inmates are students of the Bard Prison Initiative.
BPI Honored with The Manhattan Institute’s 2015 Richard Cornuelle Award for Social Entrepreneurship
August 13, 2015
Since 2001, The Manhattan Institute has sought to identify and recognize some of the most promising social entrepreneurs and the non-profits they've founded, based on their own original ideas. This year, BPI is one of five national winners - each of which is working toward innovative solutions for our nation's most pressing social problems.
BPI Awarded a $1 Million Grant from Ford Foundation
July 31, 2015
BPI has been awarded a $1 million, two-year grant to support its work for higher education in prisions, innovations in criminal justice reform, and reentry initiatives. The Ford Foundation is a "stalwart partner and supporter" of BPI's efforts.
Obama Restores Some Prisoners' Pell Grant Eligibility
July 31, 2015
Some people in state and federal prisons will now be eligible for Pell Grants under a program announced by the U.S. Department of Education. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the press release: “America is a nation of second chances. Giving people who have made mistakes in their lives a chance to get back on track and become contributing members of society is fundamental to who we are—it can also be a cost-saver for taxpayers.”
Obama to Extend College Aid Grants to Some Prison Inmates
July 31, 2015
More than 20 years after banning prisoners from receiving student aid, some federal and state inmates could be eligible for Pell grant money to take college courses while still behind bars. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the administration's new Second Chance Pell Pilot program during a visit to the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup, Maryland.
Here is Why it Makes Sense to Reopen Access to Pell Grants for Prisoners
July 31, 2015
US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and US Attorney General Loretta Lynch are expected to make a momentous announcement on the experimental reopening of Pell grant eligibility for some people in custody in federal correctional facilities. Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, Distinguished Fellow, Bard Prison Initiative and Levy Institute Research Professor at Bard College, explains why Pell eligibility for prisoners is in society's best interest.
Philanthropists, Lawmakers Behind New Push for College Education in Prison
July 27, 2015
The fresh interest in prison education mirrors a broader shift in criminal justice, motivated by a desire to make tax dollars work more efficiently and a backlash against what advocates for reform describe as the dehumanizing effects of incarceration.
Want to Keep Ex-Cons From Returning to Prison? Give Them a Liberal Arts Education.
July 9, 2015
Former BPI faculty member writes in The Washington Post about her experiences and the power of education.
Education gives BPI students a new identity. Instead of being “prisoners,” they are “students,” people destined to improve society. Education also gives them a unique space inside prison walls, where respect, trust, knowledge and intelligence reign. As students in that environment, they can redefine their lives. It inspires them to be better people.
ON THE RADIO
George Chochos '10 Featured on NPR's Where We Live
July 1, 2015
Featured in this NPR Where We Live broadcast is BPI alumnus, George Chochos, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees while in prison in New York State. Joining him are educators from the Center for Prison Education, which offers Wesleyan University classes to inmates at several prisons in Connecticut as well as a researcher from the RAND Corporation who discusses a study
on the effectiveness of correctional education programs across the U.S.
BPI Alumna Erica Mateo’s Groundbreaking Work at the Center for Court Innovation Featured by Chase
June 26, 2015
BPI alumna, Erica Mateo, joined the Justice Center shortly after it opened four years ago and helped launch the youth court program, which has two goals: to divert young people away from the county courts so they can instead be judged by a jury of the peers, literally, while training those peers to be community advocates who can talk about the harm certain actions can cause.
Interview: For Asia Society Staffer, Teaching Chinese to Prisoners Demonstrated 'Power of Education'
April 10, 2015
In 2012, Yun Qin, senior program associate in Asia Society's China Learning Initiatives, taught Mandarin through BPI at a maximum-security prison for men in New York State. In this interview she discusses what the experience was like.
How Prison Education Can Save Taxpayers Money
April 8, 2015
Ensuring that former inmates are educated and have the skills to give back to their communities may seem like a no-brainer, but these programs face extraordinary resistance. The common argument against prison education is that while law-abiding college students are struggling, taxpayers don’t see the fairness in paying to educate criminals. However, prison experts argue that public-funded prison education programs actually stand to help tax-paying citizens save money.
The Bard Prison Initiative: Bringing Hope to a Broken System
April 1, 2014
In a criminal justice system that’s astonishingly expensive and disproportionately punitive and yet stunningly ineffective at rehabilitating inmates or preventing crime, the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI)—a program of Bard College in Rhinebeck, New York—stands out for an approach that’s both innovative and practical. Founded in 1999 by then-student Max Kenner, BPI creates an opportunity for incarcerated men and women to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentences.
CNN: School of hard locks: College for prison inmates?
February 18, 2014
"First degree" could take on a whole new meaning within New York's prisons if a new proposal is approved by the state legislature. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has introduced a plan to allow inmates to earn college degrees while behind bars by taking college-level courses. Cuomo cited multiple studies showing "that investing in college education for prisoners dramatically decreased recidivism rates while saving tax dollars on incarceration costs," in a statement released by his office this week.
Should Prisons Offer Degree-Granting Courses to Convicted Felons? An Influential Conservative Voice Says Yes.
January 28, 2015
Archbishop of New York, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, attended the 12th BPI Commencement ceremony on January 24, 2015. Among the graduates were newly minted experts in advanced math, literature, and social studies.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan Blogs About Attending BPI Commencement
January 26, 2015
On January 24, 2015, BPI celebrated its twelfth commencement ceremony. Fifty one students received Bard degrees. Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Catholic Archbishop of New York, received an honorary degree and delivered the commencement address. He wrote about the experience on his weblog, which garnered national attention from publications such as the Harvard Political Review and the Sterling Journal-Advocate.
Trench Democracy in Criminal Justice #3: An Interview with Max Kenner
December 31, 2014
Innovative democratic professionals are recreating some of our most fundamental institutions, shaping new democratic practices and struggling against the sometimes profoundly counter-democratic tendencies of contemporary American institutions. While their work is always in progress, their experiences hold value for anyone interested in democracy’s future. Max Kenner recently discussed BPI, its significance for both incarcerated and conventional students and for the faculty involved, and its long-term democratic implications.
The Amazing Results When You Give a Prison Inmate a Liberal Arts Education
In October 2014, Kenner was honored at a ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. as Smithsonian
magazine announced the winners of the third annual American Ingenuity Awards. The awards recognize the year's most amazing achievements and the innovators behind them.