Daily Video

July 27, 2011

Prisoners Earn Degrees Behind Bars

The U.S. imprisons more people – currently 2.3 million – than any other country on Earth. Through a program from Bard College, some of those prisoners have a chance to do what they were unable to achieve in the outside world: earn a college degree.

The Bard Prison Initiative takes advantage of prisoners’ time behind bars to put them through rigorous academic training and help them earn Bachelors’ and Associates’ degrees. Many of the prisoners taking part in the program didn’t finish high school, and in extreme cases, never learned to read well.

The only requirement for admission to the Bard Prison Initiative is a passion and a drive to learn; inmates are admitted on the basis of an essay and an interview.

The professors who teach the inmates say their students in prison are better than those in the outside world, reading every single assignment in detail and asking thoughtful, in-depth questions.

“It’s incredible. I have never had a student who reads everything, every page that I assign. And they do,” says Miguel Munoz-Laboy, a professor who teaches in the Bard prison program.

Quotes

“It’s incredible. I have never had a student who reads everything, every page that I assign. And they do,” says Miguel Munoz-Laboy, a professor who teaches in the Bard prison program.

Warm Up Questions

1. What purpose does prison serve?

2. Why do people go to prison?

3. Why do people go to college?

Discussion Questions

1. What does the professor in the video say is the main difference between his students in prison and his students outside prison? Why do you think this difference exists?

2. Do you think prisoners should be earning college degrees even if they have to serve very long sentences and may never get a chance to use them in the outside world? Why or why not?

3. Were you surprised by anything you saw in this video? Why or why not?

Additional Resources

Video Transcript

California Prisons Ruled Too Crowded

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