President Lee Pelton and Mneesha Gellman, director of the Emerson Prison Initiative and associate professor of political science write an op-ed for the Globe, describing the need for more educational opportunities for incarcerated people post-pandemic. The Emerson Prison Initiative, which is a pathway program to a bachelor’s degree, and all other college programming in MA prisons, were suspended in November, though Emerson continued remotely.
They cite reducing recidivism rates and providing opportunities for employment in civilian life once they return as among the advantages to educational programming in prisons.
For Emerson Prison Initiative students and others in college prison programs, access to higher education while incarcerated is a lifeline, and one the state of Massachusetts should take seriously. Governor Baker and the Department of Correction should let colleges expand the number of students admitted into college programs, a timely issue with the recent reopening of Pell Grants to incarcerated people. DOC could also dedicate more classroom space to college programs, ensure that students who want to remain enrolled while incarcerated have the option to stay at the facility where they are enrolled, and facilitate reentry success by allowing college programs to maintain post-release contact with students.