Reimagining the place of higher education.

21st Commencement
Celebrating 63 graduates at Eastern Correctional with voting rights activist and commencement speaker Desmond Meade.

What is college for?

Students discussing around a table.

The Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) works to redefine the availability, affordability, and expectations typically associated with higher education in America.

Since 2001, BPI has created groundbreaking opportunities for college within America’s prison systems. These programs transform the negative impacts of criminal punishment and create radical inroads of access and opportunity to higher learning.

Today, BPI enrolls over 300 incarcerated students full-time in programs that culminate in degrees from Bard College; it offers extensive support for its alumni in and around New York City; and, it has developed the BPI Summer Residency, an intensive, experiential, and hands-on series of workshops on the nuts and bolts of college-in-prison for new and emerging practitioners led by BPI staff and alumni. The Residency leads to an ongoing community of practice that builds on over a decade of cultivating a nationwide network of leading universities and colleges in the field, through the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison. BPI’s newest initiative, the Bard Microcollege, expands yet further the scope and impact of this work, delivering high-quality liberal arts education to communities outside of prison through partnerships with community-based institutions.

Who are BPI students?

The BPI student body mirrors that of the prison system at large: students come from communities with the fewest quality educational opportunities that are most impacted by crises of hyper-policing and mass incarceration. 80% are BIPOC. The majority were first arrested as minors. Few completed high school; most earned their GED in prison. Once enrolled, BPI students engage with the college full-time, embarking on a course of study that is ambitious and matches the breadth and intensity of any undergraduate learning experience.

After returning home, BPI alumni become independent taxpaying citizens. They work in business, the arts, and media; they attend graduate school; they have careers in human services. Virtually none return to prison. They contribute to their communities in all the ways one might expect of any college graduate.

By The Numbers

Courses offered in prison each year
Bard degrees earned
Colleges or universities partnering in the Consortium

National Engagement, Advocacy and Building a Global Community of Practice

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