Program Website: http://sites.bu.edu/pep/
Danielle Rousseau, Ph.D., LMHC, Director
Department of Applied Social Sciences
Director of Prison Education
808 Commonwealth Avenue, Rm 234
Boston, MA 02215
Program Description: The Boston University Prison Education Program was founded by labor organizer, tenant activist, and poet Elizabeth Barker. Together with BU President John Silber, Barker worked to have the Boston University Prison Education Program offer its first credit-bearing college courses at MCI/Norfolk, in 1972. In 1989, the Prison Education Program expanded to a second medium-security prison for men (MCI/Bay State), and by 1991 included MCI/Framingham Massachusetts’ only penal institution for women. BU continues to be a nationally recognized leader for its contribution to the lives of prisoners in the Program, and by extension, its contribution to the prisons they inhabit, the families they left behind, and the communities to which they will return.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, a number of Massachusetts colleges offered courses within the prison system. Students who had earned 30 to 60 credits through these colleges could apply the credits towards a Boston University bachelor’s degree, and could even go on to pursue a master’s degree. However, with the Crime Control and Prevention Act of 1994, Pell Grants for prisoners were eliminated, and as a result, universities withdrew their programs. In Massachusetts, only Boston University continued to operate in prisons, though since 1998 it has focused exclusively on undergraduate courses.
Degrees Offered: Bachelor of Liberal Studies in Interdisciplinary Studies
Programs Offered: Over 600 courses in a variety of disciplines, including opera, accounting, English composition, Latin, biology, sociology, marketing, acting, and language courses in Spanish, French, and Greek. Entry into the program is by four-part examination; those scoring in the top 20% are interviewed. Number of new admittees limited by number of graduates the previous year. This rigorous selection process insures that prison education students are at a level commensurate with the high academic standards of Boston University.
Unique Features: From its inception in 1972, the BU Prison Education Program has offered scholarships to the corrections staff. Since AY 2008-09, Harvard University sociology students and incarcerated men and women enrolled in Boston University have shared a joint classroom inside the walls of MCI/Norfolk (men’s medium security) as well as MCI/Framingham (MA’s women’s maximum security prison). Both Harvard and Boston University students receive course credit in a semester-long seminar that explores social justice issues, and proposes solutions to consequent social problems.
Headquarters: Boston, MA
Correctional Facilities Served: MCI/Norfolk; MCI/Framingham; MCI/Bay State
Population Served: Incarcerated men and women in BU program and a few Harvard sociology students
Number of Students: 11500 in total since 1970s; In the academic year 2011-12, 95 at Norfolk, 50 at Framingham, 3 at Bay State (too many short termers at Bay State)
Graduates to Date: 280 + students have earned bachelor’s degrees, 39 received master’s degrees, and 23 were granted both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In the academic year 2010-11, sixteen students earned BLS degrees.
Year Founded: 1972
Founders: Elizabeth Barker and former BU President John Silber
College/University/Organization Partnerships: Boston University
Funding: Fully funded by Boston University