Higher Education in Prison

In recent years, public discourse around mass incarnation has shifted away from punitive models, recidivism, and public safety toward amending the unequal systems and social structures that feed the prison-industrial complex. Emerging focus is on upholding human rights, reducing the overall prison population, providing reentry services, and restoring full citizenship to system-impacted people.

Since 2015, Mellon has reinforced this shift, awarding more than $60 million to higher education in prison programs, including substantial regranting of $5 million in the last quarter of 2021.

Recent education-in-prison grants made through the Higher Learning program support new ways of teaching, and administrative innovations such as the launch of new degree-granting programs for incarcerated women; restoring in-person learning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic; and creating the first humanities master’s degree program for incarcerated students in New York State.