Communications | Press Releases



Funding will expand college-in-prisons in 7 prisons, as well as reentry and alumni programs across New York. 

ANNANDALE-ON-HUSON, NY — Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) today announced that the organization is receiving $4.5 million in congressionally direct funding to help deepen Bard’s college-in-prison work across 7 New York State prisons as well its reentry and alumni programs throughout the state. The funding was secured by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and was supported by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Ritchie Torres (NY-15).

“On behalf of the College, I’d like to express my gratitude to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Representative Torres for securing this important funding,” said Bard College President Leon Botstein. “The Bard Prison Initiative has led the nation in shaping the way we think about higher education for incarcerated people and its role in changing the impact of imprisonment for the better, inside the prison system and beyond.”

“We are deeply grateful to Senate Majority Leader Schumer for his generous support of the Bard Prison Initiative. This funding will help us expand the place of education, of hope, and a commitment to people’s futures within New York’s criminal justice system and its prisons,” said BPI Executive Director Max Kenner. “In New York and nationally we are restoring real educational opportunities to prisons. The sustained bipartisan support of college-in-prison – will reduce crime, increase safety, and create radical inroads to higher education. Thank you Representative Torres for supporting BPI funding in the House and Senator Gillibrand for your support as well.”

“The Bard Prison Initiative is a vital institution that has been supporting incarcerated individuals and their families for decades,” said U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY-15). “I am proud to have secured $4,500,000 for the Bard College here in New York for prison education and reentry programs alongside Senators Schumer and Gillibrand. This funding will help ensure that those incarcerated have a chance at a better, more meaningful life when released.”

BPI enrolls more than 400 incarcerated students in degree granting programs. Students earn Bard college AA and BA  degrees through the program. BPI begins working with students to plan their reentry at least a year ahead of release and then works with students and alumni as they transition back into the community and throughout their careers. Reentry services at BPI include continuing education, career development, housing services, and mental wellness.

In the “Effects of College in Prison and Policy Implications,” authors Matthew Denney and Robert Tynes find that participation in a college-in-prison program leads to a “large and significant reduction in recidivism rates” and that people with “higher levels of participation” in a college in prison program recidivate at lower levels. The recidivism rate for BPI students who earn an AA degree is 8.7% but that of students who go on to earn a BA degree falls to 3.1%. These rates stand in stark contrast to the national recidivism rate which is above 60%.

In addition to lowering recidivism, providing college opportunities in prison has been found to deliver strong employment outcomesdevelop employer-demanded skillsmake prisons saferand strengthen pathways to successful reentry. These programs also hold the unique potential to improve students’ lives, help narrow racial and economic equity gaps in postsecondary attainment and workforce participation, strengthen local economies and communities, and disrupt cycles of incarceration that continue to target, harm, and limit opportunity for Black and Brown people and people from low-income backgrounds. Further, A 2016  RAND study found that for every $1 a state invests in college in prison, it saves $4-5 in terms of incarceration costs.

About BPI:

The Bard Prison Initiative was founded by undergraduates at Bard College in 1999, in response to the decimation of college-in-prison nationally. After gaining access to the New York State prison system and securing limited funding, Bard College launched BPI as a pilot program with 16 students in 2001. Since then, the program has grown annually and dramatically. Its first associate degrees were issued in 2005 and the first bachelor’s degrees in 2008. Today, BPI operates in seven interconnected prisons in New York State. It enrolls over 400 students and organizes a host of extracurricular activities to replicate the breadth of college life and inquiry. Over its nearly 25 years, BPI has expanded in multiple directions. BPI’s Reentry & Alumni Affairs teams work with formerly incarcerated Bard students as they pursue robust civic and professional lives after release.  This includes opening  a NYC office and launching an upstate initiative based in Albany, NY to support alumni across the state. BPI is also the home of a national Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, dedicated to fostering a robust and sustainable national community of college-in-prison initiatives across diverse institutions of higher education along with the BPI Summer Residency for emerging practitioners. Most recently, BPI established the Bard Microcollege to bring full-scholarship, academically rigorous liberal arts college to isolated communities outside of prison. In all its work, BPI builds alliances to rethink access, reduce costs, and redress inequities in higher education.

About Bard College:

Founded in 1860, Bard College is a four-year, residential college of the liberal arts and sciences located 90 miles north of New York City. With the addition of the Montgomery Place estate, Bard’s campus consists of nearly 1,000 parklike acres in the Hudson River Valley. It offers bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and bachelor of music degrees, with majors in more than 40 academic programs; graduate degrees in 13 programs; eight early colleges; and numerous dual-degree programs nationally and internationally. Building on its 163-year history as a competitive and innovative undergraduate institution, Bard College has expanded its mission as a private institution acting in the public interest across the country and around the world to meet broader student needs and increase access to liberal arts education. The undergraduate program at our main campus in upstate New York has a reputation for scholarly excellence, a focus on the arts, and civic engagement. Bard is committed to enriching culture, public life, and democratic discourse by training tomorrow’s thought leaders. For more information about Bard College, visit

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