Mellon Foundation Allocates $3.3M to Prison Education

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is investing $3.3 million in prison education programs that are designed to help inmates reintegrate into society.

“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 Eugene Tobin, senior program officer of the Mellon Foundation. “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.”

The $3.3 million grant will be divided amongst four recipients.

The first recipient is the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which offers inmates at the Otisville Correctional Facility who are eligible for release within five years the opportunity to earn college credits during their incarceration.

The second recipient is the Marymount Manhattan College (also based in New York). Funds will go towards supporting its two- and four-year-degree programs offered to inmates at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women. Additional funds will be used to expand these offerings to inmates at the Taconic Correctional Facilities for Women.

The third recipient is California State University, Los Angeles. Not only does Cal State offer BA programs to inmates at Lancaster State Prison, the college also provides post-release services to program participants who wish to complete their degrees at the university’s main campus.

The fourth and final recipient is the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison, a national network dedicated to expanding access to higher education in prison and empowering former inmates by providing post-release services.

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