by Christopher L. Eisgruber
Bravo to the federal education department for recently expanding a college-in-prison program that helps incarcerated people successfully transition back to society—and which has given Princeton faculty and students genuinely meaningful opportunities to extend our impact beyond this campus.
The expansion of the Second Chance Pell experiment to 73 new sites means more colleges and universities will be able to provide educational access to incarcerated people, offering training and knowledge helpful in future employment, especially for those who complete a degree. Studies show that these programs, which have bipartisan support, reduce recidivism and help formerly incarcerated individuals contribute productively to their families and communities. Every dollar spent on prison-based education saves taxpayers $4-$5 in three-year re-incarceration costs.
The Princeton Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI), part of the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, has participated in the Second Chance Pell program since its launch in 2015. Our faculty and student-teachers help incarcerated students attain degrees from Raritan Valley College and Rutgers, under the umbrella of the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons program. The overall initiative typically reaches approximately 600 students annually in New Jersey—one of the largest programs in the country.
Princeton’s commitment to college-in-prison programs goes back to at least 2005 and has extended to people in seven New Jersey correctional institutions. About 100 Princeton faculty, postdocs, lecturers, and community members teach and tutor during the year. Our coursework reaches approximately 150 students a year and spans all disciplines: humanities, physical sciences, including laboratory courses, social sciences, and mathematics. Princeton’s work has been recognized by the National Science Foundation as a national leader in STEM education in prison.
We’re fortunate to have leadership in New Jersey and Washington that recognizes that expanding education opportunity can lead to crime reduction and healthier societies. For our part, Princeton remains committed to providing the highest-quality postsecondary education to incarcerated students in New Jersey.