Higher Education in Prison
We envision a US South where all people are liberated from the inter-generational harm of structural racism and economic inequality. We seek to reverse the trend of mass incarceration and to affirm the humanity, capacity, and potential of currently incarcerated people. To achieve this, LGF increases access to high-quality, accredited college courses inside of state correctional facilities in the US South.
OPPORTUNITY TO INVEST IN PRISON EDUCATION & MORE JUST FUTURES
Higher Education in Prison (HEP) programs are important in many ways:
They strengthen families and communities by helping formerly incarcerated people gain economic mobility, stability, and leadership capacity.
They restore a measure of educational equity for students who have been left behind and offer a means of intellectual pursuit and self-reflection for people who are incarcerated.
They reduce barriers for incarcerated people after release, increasingly likelihood of employment, reducing recidivism, improving public safety, and decreasingly states’ costs.
Investing more resources in HEP programs means ensuring more people who want an education while incarcerated have access, especially in the South where barriers are extraordinarily high. Although there are more than 300 prisons in the South, there are only an estimated 26 credit-bearing higher education in prison programs. Those belonging to marginalized communities, specifically people of color, have been disproportionately harmed by the US’s over-reliance on mass incarceration and face far greater challenges accessing education. BIPOC communities face higher incarceration rates than their white counterparts in the South, stemming from the legacy of an unjust criminal justice system rooted in white supremacy, with prisons as institutions entwined with the legacy of slavery.
The Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project (APAEP) is a program at Auburn University dedicated to bringing educational opportunities to people incarcerated in Alabama prisons. The program provides access to sustained and quality educational experiences in the arts, humanities, hard sciences, and human sciences. LGF has supported APAEP since 2015. In 2018, LGF awarded APAEP a three-year grant (which was extended to 2021).
The Alliance for Higher Education in Prison's (AHEP) mission is to support the expansion of quality higher education in prison, empower students in prison and after release, and shape public discussion about education and incarceration. LGF has supported AHEP since its inception in 2017. In 2021, LGF awarded AHEP a three-year grant.
The Chillon Project at Life University expands access to higher education; provides incarcerated persons, returning citizens, and correctional staff in Georgia with educational opportunities to promote personal, social, and environmental flourishing; fosters sustainable cultures of learning and mentoring in communities affected by mass incarceration; and produces high-quality research on higher education in prisons. LGF has supported the Chillon Project since 2015.
Claflin’s Pathways from Prison Program embodies a number of Claflin's guiding principles, most importantly our commitment to valuing people. As South Carolina's first Historically Black College/University (HBCU), Claflin is committed to providing all people with a safe, wholesome, and healthy environment that fosters mutual respect, diversity, and inclusion.
College & Community Fellowship (CCF) enables women with criminal convictions to earn college degrees so that they, their families, and their communities can thrive. CCF advocates for equity and opportunity for the communities it serves. LGF has supported CCF since 2015. In 2020, LGF awarded CCF a two-year grant to support education related to Pell restoration and skill-building among directly impacted advocates.
The Education Trust is a national nonprofit that works to close opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income families.
Florida Justice Center (FLJC) is a legal aid and reentry organization that is at the forefront of an emerging model of holistic legal services. By combining quality legal representation with connections to social and mental health services, FLJC is able to treat the whole person and address the issues that brought about their involvement in the justice system.
The Florida Prison Education Project (FPEP) provides educational opportunities to incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated people in Florida, researches the societal benefits of prison education and integrates the study of justice into the University of Central Florida curriculum. LGF has supported FPEP since 2019. In 2021, LGF awarded FPEP a two-year grant.
The Georgia Coalition for Higher Education in Prison (GACHEP) builds high-quality educational pathways, from pre-college coursework to accredited degree completion, for people who are in prison and people who have left prison in Georgia. In 2021, LGF awarded GACHEP a two-year grant.
Georgia State University Prison Education Project (GSUPEP) works to bring higher education into prisons and support reentry into society to help reduce recidivism. The project promotes lifelong learning that strengthens human character, increases understanding of life experiences, and motivates students to engage in productive citizenship. In 2018, LGF awarded GSUPEP a three-year grant (which was extended to 2021).
Guilford College Wiser Justice Program seeks to fulfill a mission of justice one day at a time through offering a liberal arts education to incarcerated individuals in correctional facilities in North Carolina. LGF has supported Wiser Justice since 2018. In 2021, LGF awarded Wiser Justice a two-year grant.
The Jamii Sisterhood seeks to create a safe and innovative space for Black women in higher education in prison through expert professional development and community building.
The Institute for Educational Empowerment (IEE) at Miami Dade College brings high-quality, academically sound education to an underserved population that resides in correctional institutions in South Florida. The vision of IEE is to empower students to acquire the skills to surpass their circumstances and make the most of their second chance through participation in postsecondary education. LGF has supported the IEE since 2019. In 2020, LGF awarded a two-year grant.
The Mississippi Humanities Council (MHC) creates opportunities for Mississippians to learn about themselves and the larger world and enriches communities through civil conversations about our history and culture. The MHC is starting the Mississippi Prison Education Consortium that will bring together existing higher education in prison programs across the state and centralize teacher training, enrollment support, evaluation and oversight.
Operation Restoration was formed in 2016, is led by formerly incarcerated women, and its mission is to support women and girls impacted by incarceration to recognize their full potential, restore their lives, and discover new possibilities. LGF has supported Operation Restoration since 2018. In 2021, LGF awarded Operation Restoration a three-year grant.
Piedmont Virginia Community College's Higher Education in Prison Program (PVCC) offers the Associate of Science degree in General Studies to incarcerated students at three correctional centers in Virginia. The program was established in 2006 and was selected as a Second Chance Pell Experiment site in 2019. In 2021, LGF awarded PVCC's Higher Education in Prison Program a two-year grant.
Rappahannock Community College Haynesville Correctional Center Educational Program (RCC HCCEP) was launched in 2008. Students in the program can earn an Associate in Arts and Sciences or an Associate of Applied Science in Business Management. Students are assigned an academic advisor who meets with them at least once during the semester, or more frequently as needed, to monitor their progress. The program is built around a cohort model where students take classes and study together.
REAL LIFE serves individuals who have been impacted by incarceration, homelessness, or substance use disorder by giving them an opportunity to overcome their personal and community barriers that hinder their pathway to a Thriving Life. In 2021, LGF awarded REAL LIFE a one-year grant to support individuals to access higher education.
Resilience Education stops cycles of incarceration by improving employment outcomes and reentry success through high-quality business education. Resilience partners with business schools, including Darden and Columbia, bringing MBA students to deliver Socratic method instruction through dynamic case discussions, creating a dual learning experience for all students.
Shaw University's Reducing Recidivism through Higher Education Program (RRHE) equips justice involved persons with the skills and education to create a sustainable source of income upon release from prison and assist with reentry into society while reducing the risk factors that contribute to recidivism. LGF has supported Shaw's RRHE Program since 2019. In 2021, LGF awarded the Reducing Recidivism through Higher Education Program a one-year grant.
The Southern Higher Education in Prison Collective works to advance educational opportunities for people who are incarcerated. The Collective is committed to making direct change to systems in the South that negatively impact incarcerated students and their families and communities. LGF has supported the Collective since 2017. In 2021, LGF awarded the Collective a two-year grant.
Southside Virginia Community College's Campus Within Walls (SVCC CWW) launched in 2009. The program offers an Associate’s degree in general studies and a certificate in information systems technology. All Campus Within Walls participants live together in a dorm that is exclusive to the men in the program, along with teaching assistants who have earned their degree and have taken courses on pedagogy and classroom leadership. LGF has supported Campus Within Walls since 2015.
Stetson University Community Education Project (CEP) is a multi-disciplinary, higher education-in-prison program at Stetson University. The Community Education Project offers quality liberal arts education to students incarcerated at Tomoka Correctional Institution in Daytona Beach, Florida. LGF has supported the Community Education Project since 2018. In 2021, LGF awarded the Community Education Project a three-year grant.
The mission of the Tennessee Higher Education in Prison Initiative (THEI) is to disrupt systems of harm and create opportunities for autonomy and success by providing college access to people inside Tennessee prisons, preparing students for skillful re-entry, and reducing barriers to continued education and achievement. LGF has supported THEI since 2015. In 2018, LGF awarded THEI a three-year grant (which was extended to 2021).
Tennessee Prison College Coalition (TPCC), a project of the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative (THEI), is a space for higher education partners, corrections partners, re-entry partners and community partners to share best practices, identify programming challenges, create standard operating policies and procedures, and discuss an agenda of next steps for implementation of prison higher education across the state.
The University of Mississippi's Prison-to-College Pipeline Program (PTCPP), a university-community engagement initiative, promotes higher education in prison in response to high rates of incarceration and the ongoing need for increased access to educational opportunities in Mississippi.
University of North Alabama-Limestone Prison Programming Initiative's (UNA) mission is restoring lives through healing, empowerment, accountability, education, and inclusion. The heart of their programming is the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which brings incarcerated and university students together in the same classroom.
University of North Carolina-Asheville Prison Education Program's (UNCA-PEP) goal is to create an academic community of incarcerated students, educators, and formerly incarcerated individuals through the founding of a comprehensive prison education program.
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Friday Center for Continuing Education Correctional Education Program was started in 1974. It provides an assortment of instructor‐led credit bearing college courses in 10 prisons across North Carolina. The program also makes self‐paced, correspondence courses available to students at all 61 prisons in North Carolina. Classes are taught by dozens of faculty hailing from 10 different UNC System Institutions.
The mission of the Vera Institute of Justice is to end the overcriminalization and mass incarceration of people of color, immigrants, and people experiencing poverty. LGF has supported Vera’s Unlocking Potential work since 2018. In 2020, LGF awarded Vera a two-year grant.
The Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE) works to broaden educational access, support student success, and provide innovative solutions to workforce needs. The VFCCE’s work includes the Virginia Higher Education for Incarcerated Students Consortium with a focus on providing educational access to education to incarcerated students. LGF has supported the Consortium since 2018.
The Warren Wilson Inside Out Program (WWIO) offers credit-bearing liberal arts college courses with the goal of providing reflective space and mentorship for students incarcerated at Swannanoa Correctional Center for Women. LGF has supported Warren Wilson’s Inside Out Program since 2016. In 2019, LGF awarded Warren Wilson’s Inside Out Program a two-year grant.
The West Virginia University Higher Education in Prison Initiative promotes educational access and equity in the Appalachian region. The Initiative offers for-credit college courses to incarcerated students; collaborates with imprisoned writers to showcase their writing and artwork; and provides support to formerly incarcerated students at West Virginia University. In 2021, LGF awarded the Initiative a three-year grant.
HEP program support
Increasing access to and improving the effectiveness of college in prison in the US South.
Network and learning
Forging meaningful connections among HEP leaders, currently and formerly incarcerated students, and other important stakeholders.
Providing returning students with the support and resources necessary to successfully transition from college in prison to college in a community setting.
Building more effective policies, practices and stronger prison-college partnerships.
Research, evaluation, and awareness building
Raising critical awareness and understanding of HEP as a strategy to reduce the trend of mass imprisonment.
Relationships move at the speed of trust: our grantmaking focuses on developing authentic, not transactional relationships. Our approach focuses on:
INCREASING ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION IN PRISON AND IMPROVING PROGRAM DELIVERY
We seek to improve access to accredited college courses for incarcerated students, prioritizing BIPOC communities most impacted by incarceration. We support students successfully transitioning from college in prison to a college on a traditional campus.
PRIORITIZING EQUITY AND COMMUNITIES
We focus our funding on historically oppressed and lower income communities. We prioritize student-centered programs rooted in an understanding of institutional racism, the unjust social conditions it perpetuates, and the policies that promote a racist and dysfunctional prison system. We place a high value on programs that incorporate student voices and input; and that operate with a racial equity lens.
SEEKING OUT POLICY CHANGE OPPORTUNITIES, GROUNDED IN COMMUNITY-LED ADVOCACY
We support policy education and advocacy of policies and practices addressing barriers to higher education in prison, as well as historic injustices to low-income and BIPOC communities.
ALIGNING FUNDING PARTNERS, INVESTING IN NETWORKS & LEARNING, AND BUILDING CAPACITY
We collaborate and align with other funders and support networks of organizations. We support efforts to build strong connections among HEP leaders, formerly incarcerated students, key community stakeholders, and other subject matter experts to share and create promising practices, collectively problem solve, and hold each other accountable. We ensure grantee partners have funding to increase organizational effectiveness, health, and sustainability. We support an ecosystem in which organizations share their growth and development with one another through peer learning communities.
INVESTING REGIONALLY IN THE SOUTH/SOUTHEAST
We are dedicated to supporting organizations based in the South/Southeast.
Since 2013, we have partnered with 67* HEP organizations in the South and have moved $8,521,702 in funding to support grantees. Through the visionary and resilient work of organizations throughout the South, we have seen our grantee partners make great strides towards a vision of affirming the humanity, capacity, and potential of currently incarcerated people.
*This includes one-time grants to organizations providing COVID resources to those affected by mass incarceration in 2020.
By partnering and working alongside exemplary organizations and funders, we hope to expand the financial resources going to HEP programs in the South and work to overcome the inter-generational harm of mass incarceration, systemic racism, and economic inequality.