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Event | College Behind Bars

College Behind Bars Coming to Holyoke Microcollege

Friday, March 20, 2020 1:30-3:30 p.m. Holyoke Library Community Room 250 Chestnut Street, Holyoke   Please join us for a screening of highlights from the documentary film COLLEGE BEHIND BARS, about students in the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), one of the most rigorous prison education programs in America.   The screening… Read More 

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News | Microcollege

Bard and Brooklyn Public Library Partner for Microcollege

From the Library Journal. Bard College, a private liberal arts college in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, and Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) have partnered to launch a “microcollege”—an innovative undergraduate program for nontraditional students—at BPL’s Central Library in Prospect Heights. Bard at Brooklyn Public Library is designed to… Read More 

How This Radical College for Inmates is Taking Its Program Outside the Walls

Nationally, nearly half of all inmates released from prison return there after committing another crime. But the recidivism rate among those who’ve earned college degrees through the Bard Prison Initiative, an adjunct program operated by liberal arts school Bard College inside six medium and maximum security prisons in New York, is far lower: Since the program began in 2001, more than 400 convicts have graduated and eventually been released. Just 2% end up back behind bars.

Most also have no trouble finding work. “It’s not that they just don’t return to prison,” says BPI founder and executive director Max Kenner. “It’s that they become independent middle-class taxpaying citizens, neighbors, and pals. They’re engaged in their communities and all kinds civic and positive and educational ways.”

The program is structured to resemble a classic college curriculum for associate and bachelor level degrees. BPI has roughly 60 classes overall, which span the liberal arts spectrum from advanced calculus to genetics, and Mandarin Chinese. Students are encouraged to take a full load—about four to five classes per semester—to complete their degrees within the same timeframe as those might outside the walls. Common majors include mathematics, humanities, and social studies, which include a senior thesis that must be defended in front of an academic committee.