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[Susan notes: Another thing we can thank politicians for--eliminating most college education opportunities in prisons.]

Published in New York Times
10/09/2013

To the editor

Re Bible College Helps Some at Louisiana Prison Find Peace (news article, Oct. 6):



For the 15 years that I have been teaching literature at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, I have regularly participated in our Academics for Offenders program, teaching masterĂ¢€™s-level courses for students who are inmates at a nearby state prison. The program has been in existence for more than twice as long.



Other members of the literature and humanities programs participate voluntarily and willingly not only because of the good the program does, but also because the seminars are so intellectually rewarding.



As one student told me, "We have three hours a week in which we're treated like people," and they take full advantage of the time.



KEVIN R. McNAMARA

Houston,



To the Editor:



Religious or secular, college opportunity once existed in American prisons. Now, by and large, it does not.



College reduces recidivism and helps prisoners be better parents and become taxpayers. It saves money. Most important, college-in-prison radically increases college access within the communities that need it most. It was corrections' most affordably effective tool until Congress "got tough" and eliminated it.



The American Civil Liberties Union should rest easier: "hope" is not exclusively the province of the sacred. Learning history, engaging the arts, becoming mathematically literate -- these are genuinely transformative and empowering actions.



In the handful of college-in-prison programs that still exist, we see this every day. We also see it when alumni bring the benefits of education home to their communities after release.



America can keep fumbling justice and education policies all it wants. College-in-prison, though, responds profoundly and affordably to our worst failures in these arenas. It deserves another look.



MAX KENNER

Exec.

Director, Bard Prison Initiative

Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Kevin McNamara and Max Kenner


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