Ellen Condliffe Lagemann is the former Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, a prolific author, and currently a Distinguished Fellow at the Bard Prison Initiative.
In this episode of Other Side, Ellen talks about her book Liberating Minds: The Case for College in Prison (The New Press) and her own experiences teaching in New York State prisons.
Ellen persuasively outlines the many benefits of college-in-prison programs.
As she points out, most incarcerated people return to society someday.
Education programs in prisons help people grow while incarcerated and return to society in a better position to contribute and avoid a life of crime. The recidivism rate for prisoners who take college courses is extremely low.
These programs also give inmates purpose and can reduce violence and instability in prisons.
Ellen also talks about the positive impacts these programs can have on inmates' children and in their communities.
College-in-programs are costly, but they are far cheaper than continuing to incarcerate the same people over and over. It really seems like a commonsense approach to helping people get on their feet, reduce crime, reduce recidivism, and save tax dollars.
I recommend that you also check out an earlier episode we did on this topic called "Prison, punishment, and rehabilitation." In that episode, I interviewed one of Ellen's former students, Wes Caines. Wes makes a very personal case for these programs from the point of view of a participant. Ellen complements Wes's perspective with a bird's eye view of what college-in-prison programs are and their larger societal benefits.
If you'd like to learn more, I recommend checking out Ellen's latest book Liberating Minds: The Case for College in Prison. Also check out a book by Ellen's colleague Daniel Karpowitz.
And if you're interested in reading more generally about race and criminal justice in the United States, I recommend Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.