The United States has the highest documented rate of incarceration in the world, a rate that has increased by 500 percent over the past 40 years. In response to this crisis, Bennington College launched the Incarceration in America initiative. This growing initiative includes curriculum, visiting speakers, theatrical events, think tanks, and retreats to develop public policy and political action in the post-tough-on-crime era.

Beginning in November 2015, Bennington College will offer courses at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York. Great Meadow is a maximum-security prison where 1,600 men are incarcerated.

Higher education in prisons has shown that every dollar spent saves the taxpayer between four and five dollars as a result of reduced recidivism. Following the Crime Bill of 1994, Pell Grants for incarcerated students were discontinued, and post-secondary education in prisons was drastically reduced, depending entirely on privately funded programs offered by a few colleges and universities.

Building on Bennington College’s distinguished contributions to the humanities, the Prison Education Initiative (PEI) at Bennington College brings the college’s renowned faculty and accredited degree programs into Great Meadow Correctional Facility. The Prison Education Initiative will be credit-bearing and the credits will be transferable. The courses taught will be identical in content and standards to those offered at the College; initial courses will be in social science, literature, and American history. Faculty members David Bond and Annabel Davis-Goff will teach the first two classes.

See information on past events.