Scholars Behind Bars

Two new books discussing Bard College’s prison education initiative: College in Prison: Reading in an Age of Mass Incarceration by Daniel Karpowitz, and Liberating Minds: The Case for College in Prison by Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, are reviewed in this article in the New York Review of Books. The article documents how few college-in-prison programs there are in the US, and looks at the background of increasingly punitive views of criminal justice over the past several decades, coupled with a simultaneous drop in public commitment to higher education:

“Since the 1960s, America has incarcerated more people—and for longer periods of time—than at any time in its history, and more than any other nation on earth. Many criminals were seen as beyond rehabilitation, so the only seemingly reasonable thing to do was to lock them up for many years. And even as states and the federal government plowed more money into prisons, they cut funds for colleges and universities. They also slashed student aid, shifting the cost burden from grants to loans—that is, from public to private hands. The imprisoning widened, and the educational state withered.”

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