Program Website: https://prisonstudiesproject.org/
Contacts: Kaia Stern, Director
Program Description: In September 2008, Kaia Stern and Bruce Western launched the Prison Studies Project (PSP) at Harvard University. PSP is a group of students, teachers and researchers with a shared interest in the American punishment system. Our project promotes informed conversation about the challenges of mass incarceration through an interdisciplinary approach committed to education and policy change. PSP’s unique relationship with Boston University’s longstanding Prison Education Program and the Massachusetts Department of Correction facilitates our teaching college courses in prison.
Degrees Offered: Credit toward a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology (for the Harvard students), or a Bachelor of Liberal Studies in Interdisciplinary Studies (for the BU students)
Programs Offered: Co-taught as an upper-division college seminar in Urban Sociology, the first Prison Studies course was at MCI Norfolk and included five Boston University graduates who audited the class from inside the state prison, ten BU college students who were incarcerated at MCI Norfolk, and five Harvard juniors in sociology, who traveled to the prison from Harvard’s campus in Cambridge. Each student involved in the program received full academic credit toward his or her bachelor’s degree, from either Harvard or BU.
Unique Features: The Prison Studies partnership marks the first time that the DOC in Massachusetts has permitted traditional college students to learn alongside incarcerated students as part of a curriculum for college credit. Since 2008, Harvard University sociology students and incarcerated men and women enrolled in Boston University’s Prison Education Program have shared a classroom inside the walls of MCI/Norfolk (a men’s medium security prison) and MCI/Framingham (a women’s maximum security prison). Both Harvard and Boston University students receive course credit in a semester-long seminar that explores topics in urban sociology, such as race, poverty and community justice. Click here to read student testimonials.
Headquarters: Cambridge, MA
Correctional Facilities Served: MCI/Norfolk and MCI/Framingham
Population Served: Harvard Sociology majors and men and women who are incarcerated and enrolled in the BU Prison Education program.
Number of Students: Approximately 20 students per semester
Graduates to Date: N/A
Year Founded: 2008
Founders: Kaia Stern and Bruce Western
College/University/Organization Partnerships: Harvard University, Boston University’s Prison Education Program, and the Massachusetts Department of Correction
Funding: Boston University’s Prison Education Program and Bruce Western’s generosity helped to sustain the costs of travel and teaching associated with the Prison Studies Project behind bars. The Sunshine Lady Foundation, the Elfenworks Foundation, and a one-year Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching grant supported the early stages of our work. Although we are currently housed at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University, the Prison Studies Project is responsible for raising independently the funds necessary for its operations and success.