Inmates learning through Bard's Prison Initiative. Photographed by Karen Pearson.

Incarcerated students learning through the Bard Prison Initiative. Photographed by Karen Pearson.

 

Mission

The Emerson Prison Initiative (EPI) provides high-quality college courses to people incarcerated in Massachusetts. EPI’s mission is to democratize access to tertiary education for those who have been historically marginalized or otherwise unable to attend college. EPI aims to offer courses that are as similar as possible to our Boston campus, an emphasis that follows from a philosophy that education is transformative in and of itself. We aspire to equip all students, whether they are on the Boston campus or in prison, with critical thinking and communication skills in order for them to engage, critique, and transform the world around them.

What We Do

EPI provides rigorous liberal arts education to the inaugural EPI cohort of twenty inmate-students at Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Concord (MCI Concord). Early in Fall 2017, and based on the Bard Prison Initiative’s (BPI) successful admissions model, this first cohort went through a five-step admissions process: beginning with an information session, a timed essay exam that was then scored by a panel of Emerson College and BPI faculty, interviews, and ending with the admission of the top twenty applicants. EPI admission is highly competitive – only twenty out of nearly 100 applicants were selected. Within weeks, the cohort became registered as students in the freshman seminar IN154 Power and Privilege, taught by Dr. Mneesha Gellman, and which is being taught simultaneously on Emerson’s main Boston campus.

EPI plans to continue expanding course offerings at MCI Concord and will admit new cohorts of EPI students moving forward. Emerson brings its unique arts and communications focus to this program, while also creating a strong foundation from which students can decide their own future courses of study, whether at Emerson, other college-in-prison programs, or colleges and universities post-release.

 

Welcome note from the Director

 

Director of Emerson Prison Initiative, Mneesha Gellman. Photo taken from Emerson.edu.

Director of Emerson Prison Initiative, Mneesha Gellman. Photo taken from Emerson.edu.

 

Thank you for your interest in the Emerson Prison Initiative (EPI).

I was motivated to launch this program by the powerful experience I had in the early 2000s as an undergraduate student volunteer for the Bard Prison Initiative that had just been launched by my friend and fellow Bard student, Max Kenner. As a tutor at Eastern and Beacon Correctional Facilities in New York, I worked with inmate-students who were finding their voices in the college classroom, many for the first time, and others after years away from formal education. I saw that education can be transformative regardless of context.

One of my core values is the democratization of education by finding ways to make education accessible to all. Since 2016 I have been working to do just that as part of Emerson’s commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement.

We’re proud that in 2017 Emerson College became the twelfth member of the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, an umbrella organization based at the Bard Prison Initiative. Hosted by the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies here at Emerson, EPI offers Emerson College classes, taught by Emerson College faculty and bearing official Emerson College credits, to students currently incarcerated at MCI Concorda state-run prison. MCI Concord is a men’s medium security facility located about 45 minutes northwest of Boston, where there has never before been sustained tertiary educational programming inside. The first cohort of accepted EPI students began coursework in fall 2017, and are diving into critical analysis, academic writing, and social science theory with much vigor.

EPI’s work is only possible with the engagement of our community of supporters. Thank you for considering a donation to EPI, or supporting our program in whatever way is possible for you. We invite you to be part of making education accessible to all.

Sincerely,

Mneesha Gellman