With $3.3 Million in New Funding, Mellon Foundation Increases Investment in Funding Prison Education and Re-entry Programs

NEW YORK, June 13, 2019 – The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation today announced a series of grants totaling $3.3 million to support four prison education and re-entry programs across the country. The grants acknowledge the human costs and large-scale social and historical impact of criminal justice policies on individuals and society and seek to strengthen and expand degree-granting programs in the liberal arts for currently and formerly incarcerated students.

“Mass incarceration is linked to mass undereducation, but innovative, proven interventions can address both crises,” said Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander. “The Mellon Foundation believes in each and every student’s humanity and sees expanding access to higher education in prison as a public good.”

“We know that higher-education-in-prison programs reduce violence inside prisons, improve incarcerated students’ ties with family and community in advance of parole,  reduce rates of recidivism, and interrupt the cycle of intergenerational poverty,”said Mellon Foundation Senior Program Officer Eugene M. Tobin. “Prison classrooms can and should also be sites of curricular innovation in the humanities and a pipeline for transfer and reintegration services in partnership with universities and philanthropic supporters. College-in-prison programs represent values that should be at the heart of a democratic society.”

Grants will be awarded to support the following projects:

  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice: To support the expansion of educational and reentry initiatives for current and formerly incarcerated students. Over 54,000 people are currently incarcerated in correctional facilities in New York. The college’s Prison Reentry Institute offers credit-bearing courses for students at Otisville Correctional Facility in Orange County who are eligible for release within five years.
  • Marymount Manhattan College (MMC): To support AA and BA degree-granting programs at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women; an expansion to Taconic Correctional Facilities for Women; and to establish closer connections between these programs and the college’s main campus through collaborative courses, exhibitions, and workshops to heighten public awareness of prison education and mass incarceration. Approximately 200 incarcerated students enroll in MMC courses per year.
  • California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA): To support a BA program for incarcerated students at Lancaster State Prison and reentry post-release services for students completing their degrees at the university’s main campus. Cal State LA is the only university in the state to offer an in-person bachelor’s degree program for incarcerated students. Following release, Cal State’s chapter of Project Rebound facilitates students’ transition with academic and personal support services.
  • Alliance for Higher Education in Prison: To support a national prison education network that gathers, analyzes, and shares data, research, pedagogical practices, and training. While postsecondary education in prison is experiencing a period of growth, some challenges have also appeared surrounding infrastructure needs, program quality and requirements, transfer credits, enrollment and capacity. Over the next two years, a network of faculty, administrators, and formerly incarcerated students would identify and disseminate best practices, theories, and pedagogies that constitute high-quality teaching and learning in prison.

Prison education and re-entry has been an important grantmaking priority for Mellon in recent years. Since 2015 alone, the Foundation has dedicated nearly $18 million to a dozen organizations in this field, including Columbia University; Ithaka Harbors, Inc.; Cornell University; Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, Rutgers University--Newark; the Prison University Project; Pitzer College; The State University of New York; Auburn University;  Wesleyan University;  New York University;  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and the Vera Institute for Justice. These grantees have established outstanding programming toward expanding educational opportunity, respecting the dignity and humanity of incarcerated people,  reducing the risk of recidivism, and encouraging a reevaluation of the role of incarceration in American society.

About the Mellon Foundation 
Founded in 1969, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation seeks to strengthen, promote, and defend the centrality of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the wellbeing of diverse, fair, and democratic societies.  To this end, its core programs support exemplary and inspiring institutions of higher education and culture. For more information, visit www.mellon.org.

For more information, contact

Laura Washington
Director of Communications
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation