Jonathan Zimmerman reviews Daniel Karpowitz’s College in Prison: Reading in an Age of Mass Incarceration for The New York Review of Books in an article on the future of mass higher education and mass incarceration. In Zimmerman’s words, Karpowitz “makes a convincing case for ‘college in prison’ … carefully documenting the great many benefits that its graduates receive…. At the same time, remind[ing] us how far our higher-education system has strayed from the humanistic ideals at the heart of the Bard prison project.”
Read the full article in The New York Review of Books online, or in a copy of the February 23rd issue:
What is college for? American higher education began as a narrow religious and moral project, preparing a small subset of young men for upright lives in this world and the one everlasting. But it has evolved into a colossal vocational enterprise, which promises to yield gainful employment for its increasing variety of eager customers. Whether a college degree will lead to upper-middle-class jobs is one of the most hotly contested questions in American social sciences right now. But for prisoners, the practical advantages of a college education are impossible to deny. Only 2 percent of BPI graduates return to jail, as opposed to about half of released prisoners nationwide. Even more importantly, BPI alumni make vital and often unexpected contributions to their communities upon their return. In their prison classes, they talk about working as youth advocates, counselors, and teachers. And once they are home, that’s mostly what they do.