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New York Times
Operating at six New York correctional facilities

What is college for?

The Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) works to redefine the availability, affordability, and expectations typically associated with higher education in America.

Since 2001, BPI has created groundbreaking opportunities for college within America’s prison systems. These programs transform the negative impacts of criminal punishment and create radical inroads of access and opportunity to higher learning.

Today, BPI enrolls over 300 incarcerated students full-time in programs that culminate in degrees from Bard College; it offers extensive support for its alumni in and around New York City; and, it has developed a nationwide network of leading universities and colleges to catalyze a transformation in the relationship between education and criminal justice in the United States. BPI’s newest initiative, the Bard Microcollege, expands yet further the scope and impact of this work, delivering high-quality liberal arts education to isolated communities outside of prison through partnerships with community-based institutions.

By The Numbers

Number of BPI courses offered each year
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Percentage of BPI graduates who leave prison and never come back
Number of colleges partnering in Consortium

Who are BPI students?

The BPI student body mirrors that of the prison system at large: students come from communities with the fewest quality educational opportunities that are most impacted by crises of crime and incarceration. The majority were first arrested as children. Few completed high school; most earned their GED in prison. Once enrolled, BPI students engage with the college full-time, embarking on a course of study that is ambitious and matches the breadth and intensity of any undergraduate learning experience.

After returning home, BPI alumni become independent taxpaying citizens. They work in business, the arts, and media; they attend graduate school; they have careers in the human services. Virtually none return to prison. They contribute to their communities in all the ways one might expect of any college graduates.

A Student's Journey

Learn more about three BPI students and their unique journeys through college and reentry. This feature is best viewed on larger screens, or you may access a smaller version using the link below. Please turn your device to horizontal orientation.

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Case Studies

Launched in 2012, the Westville Education Initiative is a partnership between BPI, the University of Notre Dame, and Holy Cross College at Notre Dame. It operates within Westville Correctional Facility – halfway between South Bend and Chicago, IL. Admission is also run at a second maximum-security prison, from which admittees transfer to Westville. Students study full-time in a curriculum that includes theology, literature, history, business, biology, and mathematics.

Both associate and bachelor’s degrees are offered through Holy Cross College, while most faculty and extensive in-kind support come from Notre Dame. Funding is public and private, recidivism is low, and graduates go on to employment and further higher education across Indiana.

BPI News

The New York Times

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