New York University has launched an ambitious new initiative to bring university education to incarcerated individuals, starting at the Wallkill Correctional Facility, a medium security prison located north of New York City in Ulster County. Thanks to a generous grant from the Ford Foundation, NYU’s Prison Education Program offers credit-bearing, transferable university-level courses that will enable incarcerated students to earn an Associates of Arts (AA) degree from NYU. All courses are taught by NYU faculty and combine intensive liberal arts study with relevant professional courses from NYU’s professional schools.
Beginning in the spring 2015 semester, thirty-six men in two classes are being educated at the Wallkill facility, and up to four classes will be taught during the summer 2015—all with strong liberal studies courses, including cultural, social, and writing fundamentals. NYU Professor Toral Gajarawala is teaching Cultural Foundations I: Literary Analysis and the Politics of Interpretation, while Gallatin professors George Shulman and Bryonn Bain (pictured above, L to R Bain and Shulman) are co-teaching Cultural Foundations I: Critical Perspectives on Justice through Creative Writing.
The initiative is being coordinated with the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and overseen by a faculty steering committee comprised of faculty from several NYU Schools: the College of Arts and Sciences, the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, the Silver School of Social Work, and the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. The Program’s community partner is Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions (CNUS), a nonprofit founded and developed by formerly incarcerated professionals.
In addition to awarding AA degrees to students upon successful completion of course work, the NYU program will provide additional support to those upon release, including educational and employment counseling, community support for families, and other support services such as legal assistance to address human rights, housing, and employment issues. Students may elect to continue their college education after they complete their prison term.
NYU faculty member and Faculty Director of the NYU Prison Education Initiative Nikhil Pal Singh heads the program; Gallatin faculty member Bryonn Bain will teach courses and is the Director for Public Affairs for the Prison Initiative. More information about the NYU Prison Education Initiative is available here.
Watch Videos from the October 20, 2015 "Why Prison Education? Why Now?" event at the NYU Center for the Humanities, speakers include Dean Wofford, Gallatin faculty Piper Anderson, as well as student stories and more.