New York’s Bard Prison Initiative gives inmates at six prisons the opportunity to study in person with professors from several colleges. NPR says it’s one of only a few dozen programs that awards college degrees to prisoners, a few thousand per year. Of the 300 students who have graduated via Bard, only four percent return to prison.
These results happen partly because the program is selective. There is an entrance exam and multiple essays. Last year, out of 550 who applied, fewer than 100 were accepted. Another reason Bard student succeed is relationships with professors and other inmates. That network helps alumni continue their education at bachelor’s and graduate programs. Generally, ex-inmates struggle in both education and employment. There are about 13 million ex-inmates in the U.S., or about one in every eight men. The secret to Bard’s success is the rigorous liberal arts curriculum, which ranges from mathematics to philosophy to social science.