Changing Minds: A Participatory Action Research Project on College in Prison

Michelle Fine, María Elena Torre, Kathy Boudin, Iris Bowen, Judith Clark, Donna Hylton, Migdalia Martinez, Cheryl “Missy” Wilkins, Melissa Rivera, Rosemarie A. Roberts, Pamela Smart and Debora Upegui

in Interrupted Life

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780520252493
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944565 | DOI:
Changing Minds: A Participatory Action Research Project on College in Prison

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In 1995, President Bill Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which terminated federal funding enabling women and men in prison to attend college. As a result, at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York, a vibrant fifteen-year-old college program closed, as did more than 340 other programs nationwide. Within months, a group of prisoners organized with administration, community volunteers, and local universities to resurrect college. The College Bound program has been in place in the prison for almost ten years, supported entirely by a private, voluntary consortium of colleges and universities. Women prisoners can earn a bachelor's degree in sociology, taking classes offered by faculty from a consortium of 8–10 local colleges and universities. The physical space of the Learning Center, the hub of the college, is equipped with non-networked computers (no Internet), books, magazines, and newspapers, all of which are donated by colleges and universities in the consortium. Participatory action research projects are born in dissent, strengthened by difference, organized through a bumpy democracy, and motivated by desire for contestation and justice.

Keywords: Bedford Hills Correctional Facility; federal funding; college; College Bound program; consortium; participatory action research; Learning Center; women prisoners

Chapter.  3630 words. 

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality

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