Director of the Emerson Prison Initiative and Marlboro Institute Associate Professor Mneesha Gellman spoke with Alyssa Milano for her podcast Sorry Not Sorry, to speak about the importance of college in prison. Ben Jackson MFA ’23 produced the podcast.
Among the many facets of college in prison Gellman and Milano discussed were getting institutional buy-in for the programs, incarceration as social control, and the importance and value of restorative justice.
“I think about this work as an intervention in the social hierarchy that exists. The social hierarchy in the United States that is race- and class-based and very intersectional in how some people continue to be marginalized generation after generation, has a lot to do with who has access to quality education. Emerson, like other colleges throughout the U.S. that offer college in prison programs, [is] making an intervention in the social hierarchy by extending prestigious, high-quality college access to people who have been most left out of those opportunities,” Gellman said.
“So what we hear from students is, not only is it making a direct intervention in their own lives — because we have folks who have come out of prison with their degrees in hand who are now working in fabulous jobs in very upward social mobility kinds of ways — but they’re also inspiring their children, their nieces, their parents sometimes, to go back to college and to further their own education. So really, we see it as an intergenerational intervention in shifting the social hierarchy.”