NY Times Reports on College in Prison

The New York Times’ City Room blog published an article about Wesleyan’s College in Prison Program, where Charles Lemert and Beth Richards teach sociology and English.  The admission to the program is competitive, but open to all inmates despite their sentences.  The article talked to some of the incarcerated students about why they joined the program:

But many of them speak with pure clarity about the reasons they were drawn to school again: idle curiosity, intellectual interest, a longing to be part of the big conversations of the day, and a desire for self-respect.

“It’s rejuvenating,” said Antonio Rivera, 23, who likes to read history and is less than halfway through a 12-year sentence for drug dealing.

Clyde Meikle, 38, of Hartford is serving a 50-year sentence for fatally shooting a man with whom he tussled over a parking spot. Ten years ago, he earned his high school diploma in prison. He likes to set a positive example for what he calls “the younger cats.”

“For me, it was a self-esteem thing,” he said.

college in prison

The article also mentions on the uncertain future of the program, as people argue whether it is a good use of University funds:

Two students, Russell Perkins and Molly Birnbaum, who had volunteered in prisons as students, revived the idea last year when they were seniors and figured out a way to finance it.

They obtained nearly $300,000 from the Bard Prison Initiative, a program that already pays to offer Bard College courses in a handful of New York prisons. That should fully pay for Wesleyan’s program for two years and provide partial financing for two more years.

[…] University administrators say they will raise additional money to finance the program privately so as not to siphon money from Wesleyan’s core mission. That was among the concerns raised by the faculty when it gathered to vote on the proposal last spring.

The vote was first scheduled to be taken on May 6, but it was postponed when a Wesleyan junior, Johanna Justin-Jinich, was murdered that day at the bookstore, turning a tranquil campus into a raucous crime scene. The faculty endorsed the plan two weeks later by a show of hands, with some dissent.

Thanks to Joey from the shoutbox for the tip!

New York Times: College Ivy Sprouts at a Connecticut Prison

12 thoughts on “NY Times Reports on College in Prison

  1. student

    Well thanks anyways Wes ’98. We’ll have to find a way to get along without you. Hope you’re putting those donation requests in the recycling, at least.

  2. student

    Well thanks anyways Wes ’98. We’ll have to find a way to get along without you. Hope you’re putting those donation requests in the recycling, at least.

  3. Wes '98

    #3 Yes, I read it. But private donors dont replace faculty time.

    Wes is increasing enrollment to offset lost endowment income. What happens to class size, faculty teaching load? Does it really make sense to have a couple faculty members spending a few hours per week teaching intro SOC and ENG classes at a max security prison? If this is the best use of their time then maybe a cash strapped university doesn’t really need 11 SOC faculty to teach 13 course sections this spring.

    And Wes doesn’t exactly have a donor base with bottomless pockets – was tapping these donors for this particular project the best use of their philanthropy?

    At the risk of sounding harsh, I think this reflects a trust-fund-kid mentality. Do whatever sounds cool at that moment. Don’t worry about resources, you can always find more dough if something important comes up. This is the path to Antioch.

    Just my opinion, and the reason donation requests from Wes will continue to go in the trash.

  4. Wes '98

    #3 Yes, I read it. But private donors dont replace faculty time.

    Wes is increasing enrollment to offset lost endowment income. What happens to class size, faculty teaching load? Does it really make sense to have a couple faculty members spending a few hours per week teaching intro SOC and ENG classes at a max security prison? If this is the best use of their time then maybe a cash strapped university doesn’t really need 11 SOC faculty to teach 13 course sections this spring.

    And Wes doesn’t exactly have a donor base with bottomless pockets – was tapping these donors for this particular project the best use of their philanthropy?

    At the risk of sounding harsh, I think this reflects a trust-fund-kid mentality. Do whatever sounds cool at that moment. Don’t worry about resources, you can always find more dough if something important comes up. This is the path to Antioch.

    Just my opinion, and the reason donation requests from Wes will continue to go in the trash.

  5. student

    #2 if you read the article you would know that this is a privately-funded program and does not siphon away from Wesleyan’s resources

  6. student

    #2 if you read the article you would know that this is a privately-funded program and does not siphon away from Wesleyan’s resources

  7. Wes '98

    Sounds like a nice idea.

    But Wesleyan’s resources are scarce. That includes faculty time and the donor base. Is this really the optimal use of those scarce resources?

    Wesleyan would benefit from a little more focus from the faculty, administration. What is Wesleyan really for?

    I’m glad to hear that this was controversial in the faculty vote. I’d like to hear some of the arguments against.

  8. Wes '98

    Sounds like a nice idea.

    But Wesleyan’s resources are scarce. That includes faculty time and the donor base. Is this really the optimal use of those scarce resources?

    Wesleyan would benefit from a little more focus from the faculty, administration. What is Wesleyan really for?

    I’m glad to hear that this was controversial in the faculty vote. I’d like to hear some of the arguments against.

  9. anon

    Sam Rieger, a Waterbury man whose 19-year-old daughter was murdered by a man now incarcerated at the Cheshire prison, agreed. “This does not make sense to me,” he said of the Wesleyan program. “What is the point?” He said the money should be spent on victims or on trying to help young people make better choices.

  10. anon

    Sam Rieger, a Waterbury man whose 19-year-old daughter was murdered by a man now incarcerated at the Cheshire prison, agreed. “This does not make sense to me,” he said of the Wesleyan program. “What is the point?” He said the money should be spent on victims or on trying to help young people make better choices.

Comments are closed.