We are convinced that higher education has a critical role to play in moving our country away from mass incarceration. In prison, college classes generate hope, direction, and purpose.
Access to higher education can improve the economic trajectories of families and communities. When one family member goes to college, others often follow. APBP has seen the impact of the book clubs on individuals as well as on their children, spouses, and loved ones.
Beyond these positive outcomes, educational programs also make prisons safer for those who live and work within them. Renaldo Hudson of the Illinois Prison Project talked to a graduate class about his time on death row, the importance of education, and what gives him hope.
After 37 years in prison, Renaldo was released in September 2020.
Higher Education in Prison Initiative
For over four years, APBP has been facilitating college-level book clubs and leading educational workshops inside area prisons. In fall 2017, APBP founder Katy Ryan taught a West Virginia University English class at a federal prison in West Virginia.
In fall 2019, the APBP Higher Education in Prison Initiative began to provide tuition support to incarcerated college students in WVU’s credit-bearing Inside-Out courses. These classes have taken place at SCI-Fayette and SCI-Greene in Pennsylvania.
Appalachian Community Think Tank
The Appalachian Community Think Tank (ACTT) was born out of a 2019 Inside-Out Justice in Literature course consisting of West Virginia University undergraduates and incarcerated students at a Pennsylvania prison. Following the class, the inside members and outside facilitators came together to form ACTT in January 2020.
Although the group is new, it is passionate about the power of literature.
To keep in touch and stay connected during COVID-19, when prisons are closed to visitors, we have created a temporary newsletter featuring content from inside and outside members.
Educational Justice and Appalachian Prisons Symposium
The Educational Justice and Appalachian Prisons Symposium, held in 2014, brought together people interested in higher education in prison, restorative justice, re-entry initiatives, and prison book projects. Funded by a West Virginia Humanities Council grant and co-coordinated by APBP and the West Virginia University Department of English, the three-day symposium enriched attendees’ understanding of issues affecting Appalachian prisons and prepared them to implement action plans related to educational justice.