Alumni Voices: Patrick Stephens ’1911/9/2022
On the onset of the pandemic, BPI developed a newsletter that was sent to incarcerated students weekly to retain communication between students and the college. The newsletter contained news and updates from across BPI’s 7 in-prison campuses; the Bard Microcolleges in Holyoke, Brooklyn, and Harlem; the BardBac on Bard’s main Annandale campus; and from the larger Bard community along with writing prompts, math problems and reflections from alumni who have come home. Since returning to in-prison operations, the BPI newsletter has become a quarterly publication and cherished opportunity to connect our campuses and the larger BPI community. This alumni profile was published in the most recent issue of the BPI newsletter.
Things have been moving fast for me since I came home on May 18th, 2022 but I realize that I was far more prepared for life beyond the prison walls than I would have anticipated. It turns out that the work I did preparing myself for release while incarcerated made my transition that much easier.
No doubt, I have an incredible support system in my family and close friends but beyond that I had cultivated the temperament, discipline and skills that I would need to navigate a world that I had not known for nearly 25 years. I had refined these attributes while I was a student at Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) and later as a candidate at New York Theological Seminary (NYTS).
While waiting for my first parole board appearance, I began writing and soon had published pieces in The Progressive and The Drift magazines. Currently, I work as a freelance writer for The Appeal Media and of course my writing centers on humanizing incarcerated people and their experiences. Within a week of my release I participated in an Instagram Live to thank the thousands of people who supported my bid for clemency and parole. The following month I was interviewed by a podcast called “Black in the Days” to talk about the evils of mass incarceration.
I signed up for the BPI Transitional Workshop, which was very helpful in furthering my level of preparedness. Segments on wellness, tech awareness, housing, and continuing education all helped to boost my confidence as I began looking for employment. Soon I was co-facilitating Alternative to Violence workshops and speaking to educators from around the world about the value of college-in-prison programs at the BPI Summer Residency. Starting next month, I begin a full-time position at the Centers for Community Alternatives (CCA) where I will have the opportunity to form strategic partnerships, develop restorative justice programs, expand alternatives to incarceration programs and advocate on behalf of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.
Presently, I am also preparing applications to various law schools and taking the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). The plan is to begin law school in the fall of 2023. I know that I should probably be tired of school but I really am excited about the prospect of becoming a constitutional law scholar. Just being home has been amazing but the greatest feeling of this first 90 days has been feeling prepared enough to do anything. There is nothing like it.
-Patrick Stephens ’19