Philosopher-Led Prison Education Program Receives $1 Million Grant


The Northwestern Prison Education Program (NPEP), an initiative “to provide a high-quality liberal arts education to incarcerated students in Illinois” while reducing recidivism, led by Northwestern University professor of philosophy Jennifer Lackey, has received a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand its programs.

Professor Lackey has been teaching philosophy and interdisciplinary courses at Statesville Correctional Center in Illinois for several years, and even has managed in getting some of her students’ writings published in The New Yorker.

Jennifer Lackey and a NPEP student

The new grant will help her and the team of faculty and students who work with NPEP to “grow the early successes of the pilot program by establishing a statewide prison education system,” according to Northwestern.

Professor Lackey says, “education builds connections that extend beyond the prison walls, even when all of the forces at work in your environment try to keep you isolated.”

According to the university,

Research has shown that while two-thirds of formerly incarcerated people will return to prison within three years, participation in prison education lowers the recidivism rate by 43 percent. One study found that the higher the degree earned, the lower the re-arrest rate—14 percent for those who graduated with an associate degree, 5.6 percent for those with a bachelor’s degree and zero percent for those with a master’s degree. Additional studies have shown that prison education impacts the lives of everyone connected to a person who is incarcerated, most notably offering the chance to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and incarceration. 

You can find more information about the grant here, and more about NPEP at its website.

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