The United States has the highest documented rate of incarceration in the world, a rate that has increased by more than 400 percent during the past 40 years. In response to this crisis, Bennington College launched the Incarceration in America initiative, which has included course curriculum, visiting speakers, theatrical events, think tanks, and three conferences focused on developing public policy and political action in the post-tough-on-crime era. Since its inception in 2014, we have partnered with many organizations doing important work in this field, including JustLeadershipUSA, The Fortune Society, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, and Housing+Solutions.

In addition to the events and programming centered around this initiative, a group of students created the Bennington College Incarceration Taskforce (BCIT); this group has published op-ed pieces in regional newspapers, consulted with the Vermont legislature on current and pending bills, and initiated public discussions on issues related to incarceration reform.

Prison Education Initiative

In partnership with the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Bennington offers transferable credited college courses to prisoners at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York, a maximum-security prison where 1,600 men are incarcerated. Spring 2016 courses at Great Meadow include American history, literature, and social science. 

Spring 2016 Conference

  • Title | Redefining Justice
  • Dates | May 6–7, 2016
  • Location | Bennington College, CAPA Symposium
  • Registration | Free and open to the public, but space is limited, so please register online
  • Contact |

Friday, May 6

  • 7:00 pm: Increasing Public Safety by Reducing Incarceration: Evidence-Based Practices in Vermont | The panel will focus on efforts by Vermont lawmakers, researchers, and practitioners to move towards an evidence-based criminal justice system. Panelists will discuss the difficulties and benefits of evaluating the efficacy of practices such as probation and parole supervision in a rigorous and scientific manner, how those evaluations can inform policymakers to create alternatives that reduce recidivism and crime, and how the Vermont context can both help and hinder these collaborative efforts. PANELISTS: Kathy Fox, Karen Gennette, Senator Dick Sears

Saturday, May 7

  • 10:00 am: Glenn E. Martin (founder and president, JustLeadershipUSA) will interview Ronald Simpson-Bey, who served 27 years in a Michigan prison and who is now an advocate for people in prison, and John Chisholm, the prosecutor for Milwaukee County, as they challenge us to rethink, reimagine, and redefine justice in the United States.
  • 12:30 pm: The Metastasizing Carceral State | Named after a section in Marie Gottschalk's book, Caught, panelists will discuss the dangers of public policies that Dr. Gottschalk describes as "the further demonization of people convicted of sex offenses or violent crimes in the public imagination and in the policy debate" and "the deporting of 'criminal aliens' for minor infractions or for more serious offenses committed long ago." PANELISTS: Dr. Fred S. Berlin, Suzanne Brown-McBride, Khalil Cumberbatch, Conor Gleason, Glenn E. Martin; MODERATOR: Vivian Nixon

List of Panelists

CAPA: incarceration in america (2016-spring bios)

  • Fred S. Berlin

  • Suzanne Brown-McBride

  • John Chisholm

  • Khalil Cumberbatch

  • Kathy Fox

  • Karen Gennette

  • Conor Gleason

  • Glenn E. Martin

  • Dick Sears

  • Ronald Simpson-Bey