Reentry & Alumni Affairs

Putting education to work

What happens when BPI alumni return home from prison?

Everyone returning home from prison faces an extraordinary number of legal and administrative hurdles. More fundamentally, they contend with stigma, distrust, and low expectations at every turn. For BPI alumni, preparation for these challenges begins inside prison with their decision to apply to college and builds through years of intensive academic engagement. As they leave prison, alumni join an extensive network of staff, partners, and most importantly, fellow graduates. Overcoming challenges, BPI alumni thrive in life and work post-release, making unique contributions to the social landscape in New York City and beyond.

“Learning to code made me employable; learning history made that matter.”

—Ornell

Ambition and Possibility

BPI combines the advising and career development services of an alumni affairs office with the specialized supports characteristic of a conventional reentry program. The relationship between BPI and students always begins in the classroom. It typically extends for years beyond graduation and release from prison. While still in prison, students access individualized advising and resources designed to help them continue their education, secure housing, and apply for jobs after release. Outside of prison, BPI offers logistical support, academic guidance, and direct connections to professional opportunities commensurate with the talent, ambition and training of BPI alumni. Among those, BPI organizes paid fellowships and internships that provide professional development for alumni as they apply the breadth of their educations in their careers.

These efforts — joined by the college and its alumni together — position qualified, formerly incarcerated people to assume leadership across the human services, advocacy, and public policy fields for generations to come.

alumni image teacher

Schools Where BPI Alumni Continue Their Education

Bard College
Columbia University
City University of New York Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies
Hunter College
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
New York University
Yale University

Where BPI Alumni Work

Bard Prison Initiative
Brooklyn Defender Services
Brooklyn Community Bail Fund
Center for Court Innovation
Ford Foundation
Hugo Neu Realty Management
JM Kaplan Fund
The New School
New York City Department of Health
Project EATS
YouthBuild

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By The Numbers

70
Number of alumni who return home annually
85%
Percent of alumni employed within two months of returning home
40
Number of college and universities BPI alumni attend once home

BPI Fellowships and Internships

Partnering with businesses and nonprofit organizations, BPI offers alumni unique opportunities to learn valuable skills in real work settings where they can focus on career development, community engagement, and establishing their professional networks. Fellowships and internships are paid and typically last between six months and one year. They build on alumni’s exceptional liberal arts educations and on the specialized knowledge they acquired within selected curricular areas of career focus, providing continuity in learning, growth, and professional development.

Public Health Fellowship

In prison, Public Health is a central feature of the BPI curriculum. In New York City, the BPI Public Health Fellowship engages formerly incarcerated women and men in critical  discussions about health equity and neighborhood revitalization. The Fellowship combines academic study, professional development, and job placement as alumni pursue careers in Public Health.

BPI-TASC Fellowship

BPI-TASC Teaching and Tutoring Fellows work within community based organizations to help young adults prepare for the high school equivalency exam and continue on to college. With formal training as writing and mathematics tutors, BPI-TASC Fellows apply their broad educations to inspire and educate others.

Ford Foundation Associate Fellowship

At its headquarters in New York City, the Ford Foundation has established one-year paid Business Associate Fellowships for BPI alumni. The fellowships provide Associates the option of spending their year in three-month rotations among the IT, finance, communications, and human resources departments or dedicating the entire year to one of those four departments.

Urban Farming and Sustainability Fellowship

Drawing from their experience in BPI’s organic gardens and coursework in food systems and sustainability, alumni are often determined to improve food quality and access within their communities after they return home. BPI has partnered with Black Urban Growers, Hawthorne Valley Farms, and Project Eats to offer workshops and placement in a paid internship at a NYC-based community farm or garden.

“What if the person we thought was the problem is actually the solution?”

—Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney

Case Studies

Darren is a distinguished member of JustLeadership USA (JLUSA) and actively engaged in the #CloseRikers campaign. Among other awards, JLUSA honored Darren with its Emerging Leadership Award and featured him as a speaker alongside Glenn Martin, John Legend, and the Speaker of the NYC Council, Melissa Mark Viverito. Darren is also the recipient of a prestigious fellowship from the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Community Organizing Institute.

First enrolling with BPI in 2006, Darren received his Associate in Arts degree in 2010. Released in 2012, Darren graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Social Studies from Bard College in 2013. This fall, he enrolled in the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College to pursue a master’s degree in the field.

In spring 2017, six BPI alumnae/i completed the first year of the new Public Health Fellowships, a program created to cultivate the public health leaders and decision makers of the future. Three of the six BPI Fellows have been hired as researchers in the NYC Department of Health. One Fellow started a position in the criminal justice division of the Ford Foundation, and another Fellow joined BPI’s reentry team. The sixth fellow was recently hired by Mayor DeBlassio’s office as the director of a new initiative to identify new solutions to long standing problems in New York’s poorest neighborhoods.

Released in 2014 after serving 20 years, Ronald Hughes was in search of his first job. While incarcerated Ronald earned an associate’s degree from Bard and hoped to pay it forward by working with young people in need of  a chance. He didn’t know exactly how to do it, but he recognized the power of education to transform the lives of young people. He returned home to Long Island, where he  connected to the local YouthBuild program and so impressed their management he was offered a position as  a youth mentor. Ronald’s training and expertise quickly distinguished him as someone ready to teach in their academic program. He was promoted and now teaches young adults in the Social Studies and Reading/Writing sections of NYS High School Equivalency exam and provides academic mentoring.