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 Prison University Project

Prison University Project

The mission of the Prison University Project is to provide excellent higher education programs to people incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison; to create a replicable model for such programs; and to stimulate public awareness and meaningful dialogue about higher education and criminal justice in California.

 

 

Our Goals

The central goals of the College Program at San Quentin are to educate and challenge students intellectually; to prepare them to lead thoughtful and productive lives inside and outside of prison; to provide them with skills needed to obtain meaningful employment and economic stability post-release; and to prepare them to become providers, leaders, and examples for their families and communities.

 

 

Through the College Program at San Quentin, as well as other education and outreach activities, the Prison University Project also aims to challenge popular myths and stereotypes about people in prison; to publicly raise fundamental questions about the practice of incarceration; and to incubate and disseminate alternative concepts of justice, both within and beyond the academy.

 

 

History and Background

In 1994 the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act barred people incarcerated in the U.S. from receiving Pell Grants. This piece of legislation effectively ended prison higher education in the U.S., as virtually all of the approximately 350 programs around the country shut down for lack of funds.

 

The College Program at San Quentin was founded in the wake of this disaster. Initiated by a professor from UC Davis, in cooperation with then-Patten College and members of the Education Department at San Quentin, the Program began in the Fall of 1996 with two classes, a volunteer coordinator, and no budget.

 

Fundraising efforts to support and expand the Program were started in 2000. In 2003, the Prison University Project formed (fiscally sponsored by the Tides Center) to provide material, administrative, and financial support to the College Program at San Quentin. In 2006, PUP incorporated as an independent non-profit organization.

 

Prison University Project Today

In addition to the College Prep and Associate of Arts Degree Programs at San Quentin, the Prison University Project provides information and guidance to academic researchers, students, members of the media, members of the state and federal legislature and their staff, individuals seeking or developing prison education programs at other institutions, people incarcerated at institutions other than San Quentin, and friends and family members of people in prison.

 

The Prison University Project also produces a bi-annual newsletter and an annual Journal of Student Writing, OpenLine; holds an annual graduation ceremony and semesterly creative performances at San Quentin; and hosts numerous other special academic and cultural events inside and outside of the prison.

 

Staff and volunteers of the Prison University Project also participate widely in public educational activities, organize cultural events, and teach, lecture, and publish on related topics.

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