Boston Review

Trench Democracy in Criminal Justice #3: An Interview with Max Kenner

Max Kenner sits beside a BPI student as they read a document the student is holding.This conversation is the ninth in the series, Trench Democracy: Participatory Innovation in Unlikely Places. 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 is the founder and executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), a program offering high quality liberal arts education across six New York state prisons. Incarcerated women and men who gain admissions to the highly selective program take courses equivalent to those offered on the main Bard campus and earn the same degrees. We talked recently about why Bard College does this work, its significance for both incarcerated and conventional students and for the faculty involved, and its long-term democratic implications. But first, we have a debate to watch, with Max Kenner narrating.

UVM vs. Bard College

A few weeks ago the debate team from the University of Vermont walks into the auditorium at Eastern Co
ectional Facility in upstate New York. Three of them, preppy, young.

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