BENNINGTON — The Prison Education Initiative (PEI) at Bennington College has received a $60,000 grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, the college announced Monday in a news release.
Now in its seventh year, PEI brings faculty from Bennington College to the Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a maximum-security men’s prison in Comstock, NY, to provide quality liberal arts education to incarcerated students.
“We are truly grateful for the financial support and trust shown in our program by the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. This grant has allowed us to expand our course offerings for 2022, particularly in the humanities, and to develop future courses for students serving life or very long sentences,” said Annabel Davis-Goff, Director and co-founder of PEI.
“As we look at the crises that have worsened in recent years, the health needs of vulnerable communities have only increased. Our grantees have shown extraordinary resilience, creativity and dedication to serving those in need, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have such a detrimental impact,” said said Alfred F. Kelly, Jr., Visa President and CEO and Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Funding from the Foundation will allow P.E.I. to develop new courses and increase student services, staying true to the ideals of a Bennington education and meeting the unique needs of its students at Great Meadow, especially as the program returns to in-person instruction after staff and the physical absence of faculty from the prison for three terms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prince Edward Island is again offering a full course curriculum for all students, with independent study for advanced students serving very long sentences, the statement said.
Increased support services are planned for 2022, including increased counseling for degree-seeking students, academic counseling for continuing education students, and information sessions for prospective students.
Since Prince Edward Island’s first class in 2015, demand for the program, which currently serves 44 students, has steadily grown, and an increasing number of inmates want to enroll in the program.
PEI’s ultimate goal. is to promote education as a lifelong activity, serving those who will one day re-enter society as productive members, as well as those who will spend their lives in prison. Inmates serving long sentences tend to be leaders in the prison community and have a strong influence on their peers. When these leaders participate in quality educational opportunities, they also encourage others to continue their education. In addition to improving inmates’ overall quality of life, a successful academic record increases their chances of a pardon or geriatric parole, according to the release.
Research has shown that access to education shapes how incarcerated students make sense of their world, cope with their sorrows, and engage with others, which in turn positively impacts life. other aspects of prison life, including a reduction in violence and disruptive behaviour. For PEI students, education is not a means to an end, but rather an end in itself, maximizing human potential through intellectual and spiritual development.
Research has shown that access to education shapes how students detained give sense targeted communities, remove barriers to care and close gaps in health services. The Foundation — named after a tireless advocate for immigrants, children, and the poor — provides flexible support for new and innovative approaches that improve health and well-being across New York State, according to the press release. For more information, visit cabrinihealth.org.