A multi-university consortium will look to transform the lives of incarcerated people through education.
The MIT Educational Justice Institute will lead a consortium to support expanding access to postsecondary education to people currently and formerly in prison statewide, fueled by a grant by the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Other member schools include Boston University, Emerson College, Mt. Wachusett Community College, and Tufts University.
The effort will draw upon the expertise of MIT’s Lee Perlman, a lecturer in philosophy who has taught prior classes to cohorts consisting of MIT students and incarcerated students, and Carole Caffery, a program administrator with over 25 years of experience as a corrections professional.
The co-directors of the new institute are also members of the MIT Experimental Study Group (ESG), a first-year learning community that has long supported a related effort to expose MIT students to the challenges and opportunities of bringing learning opportunities to local correctional facilities.
“This is a marvelous vote of confidence for us to build upon our past work,” says Perlman. “I’m excited about the transformational opportunities we can bring to the lives of those who are incarcerated by taking advantage of MIT’s hands-on pedagogy, commitment to social justice, and novel teaching technologies.”
The programming will not only feature a strong foundation in the sciences and humanities, but also career and technical training that will begin during incarceration and continue into the community. The consortium will also be responsible for creating academic and career advising specific to the needs of justice-involved students. Establishing the right learning context and wraparound support is paramount.
“Even the best education, integrating the robust resources of all of our partners, on its own, is not enough,” adds Cafferty, “Preparing returning citizens for the workforce builds resilience and promotes success. We also need to address practical challenges such as seamlessly transferring credits, conferring degrees, and assisting with comprehensive discharge plans. The ultimate goal is ambitious, but achievable: changing lives, increasing economic opportunity, and creating safer communities in Massachusetts”