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… Read More
For formerly incarcerated individuals returning to their communities, “clean, safe, and stable” housing is crucial, says Shawn Young ’19, upstate reentry resident for the Bard Prison Initiative. Speaking to his experience as a Bard alumnus through the Bard Prison Initiative, Young told the Good… Read More
A Middletown man and former convict is sharing his unconventional story of success in hopes of inspiring others, after earning his college and paralegal degree behind bars – and winning his own appeal.
Derek Brown was 18 years old when a prison sentence for burglary changed his life forever.
“Psychologically, it was shocking, shocking to my conscience,” he says.
At the time, Brown was in ninth grade and working toward his GED after several setbacks, including the death of his grandmother who raised him as a child.
“That’s when the downward spiral started,” he says. “The eventual outcome was a 16-year prison sentence, unfortunately.”
Brown says he pleaded guilty in 2011 in Sullivan County to what he thought would be a 12-year sentence, which instead turned out to be 16 years behind bars.
He ended up at Coxsackie Correctional Facility where a flyer for the Bard Prison Initiative gave the teen an unexpected new direction.
“Everything happens for a reason. Honestly, I don’t think I would have ever gone to college if I didn’t go to prison,” he says.
Brown went on to finish his associate degree, while studying law and earning a paralegal certificate.
In 2020, he filed for an appeal in his own case and won.
“I was able to re-argue my appeal saying my guilty plea wasn’t under proper information from the court, challenging the conflict of interest between the judge and victim in my case,” he says.
Brown is now 29 years old and was released last year after serving 10 years in prison.
He’s taking classes toward his bachelor’s degree at Bard in Brooklyn and hopes to continue studying law at Columbia University.
He’s sharing his story as a message of hope for anyone in need of a second chance.
“It’s never too late to change a mindset. If you truly want something and you strive for it and you believe in what you’re working towards, anything is possible,” he says.
Studies show college prison programs have high success rates nationwide when it comes to lowering re-offense rates and helping incarcerated individuals find jobs when they’re released.
BPI launched Restart in 2018 through the generous support of the National Science Foundation to build bridges between computer science training in prison and computer science entrepreneurialism after prison. Through the Restart program, BPI explored the question: "does informal learning offer an under-utilized pathway for… Read More
The Appeal featured several segments about BPI in two Justice in America podcast episodes, as well as an op-ed. Check out more details below:
Josie Duffy Rice and co-host Derecka Purnell are joined by Dyjuan Tatro ’18 and Wesley Caines ’09 along with filmmakers Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein to talk about education in prisons, the Bard Prison Initiative, and the documentary College Behind Bars.
In this episode, Josie Duffy Rice and her producer, Florence Barrau-Adams, travel to Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, New York, to interview Rodney Spivey-Jones ’17 and Max Kenner ’01 about the Bard Prison Initiative and Bard College.
Prisons, BPI graduate Rodney-Spivey Jones ’17 writes, should be institutions of learning, not ‘wastelands’ that willfully overlook human potential.
As we close out the end of our academic and fiscal year, we are sharing short films of Bard Prison Initiative Public Health Fellows, each of whom have come to the fore as voices of experience and leadership in public health across New York… Read More
As we close out our academic and fiscal year, we are sharing short films of Bard Prison Initiative Public Health Fellows, each of whom have come to the fore as voices of experience and leadership in public health across New York City. Hancy Maxis ‘15… Read More
As we close out our academic and fiscal year, we are sharing short films of Bard Prison Initiative Public Health Fellows, each of whom have come to the fore as voices of experience and leadership in public health across New York City. Ato Williams ‘12,… Read More
Hancy Maxis ‘15 was voted to address the faculty, administrators, and his fellow students, along with their families and friends at the virtual graduation ceremony for Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Health Policy and Management Department. BPI faculty, staff, and alumni tuned… Read More
In this episode, Josie Duffy Rice and her producer, Florence Barrau-Adams, travel to Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, New York, to interview Rodney Spivey-Jones and Max Kenner about the Bard Prison Initiative and Bard College.
In January 2020, Josie Duffy Rice and her producer, Florence Barrau-Adams, traveled to Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, New York, to interview Rodney Spivey-Jones and Max Kenner. Max is the founder and executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative, and Rodney received his bachelor’s degree from Bard College in 2017 through the Bard Prison Initiative. Rodney has been incarcerated for 17 years and is currently incarcerated at Fishkill. Both are featured in the PBS documentary series College Behind Bars. They joined Josie to discuss why Max started BPI 20 years ago, Rodney’s experience as part of BPI, and what he hopes to do upon his release.
Listen to podcast below:
Read the full transcript here.