Book Cover Liberating MindsCongratulations to Hawthorne Valley Board President Ellen Condliffe Lagemann on the publication of her latest book, Liberating Minds: The Case for College in Prison. The book will be released on February 7, 2017 and is available now for pre-order.

Liberating Minds makes a case for the multiple benefits of offering college programs to people who are incarcerated — not only for the inmates themselves but also for the correction officers and society as a whole. Throughout the book, Ellen also tells the story of many formerly incarcerated college students and the remarkable transformation in their lives.

Ellen has spent many years working in higher education. Currently, she is the Levy Institute Research Professor at Bard College and the Distinguished Fellow in the Bard Prison Initiative.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Lagemann, a former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Distinguished Fellow of the Bard Prison Initiative at Bard College in N.Y., argues that providing prisoners with a college education is good for both prisoners and society. College education helps the formerly incarcerated cope with the shame of having been imprisoned, communicate with their families, and increase opportunities for employment, and such programs also help society by lowering recidivism, incarceration costs, and the crime rate. In response to conflicting research about recidivism, Lagemann argues, persuasively, that these studies were either flawed or based on older, coercive models of prison education. She claims that self-directed programs in which prisoners have control over when and what they learn are effective. There is a particular focus on the Bard Prison Initiative, but other programs are mentioned too, including the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound at the Washington Correctional Facility for Women and the Prison University Project at San Quentin in California. Lagemann includes intensive research, but her most powerful supporting evidence comes from the anecdotes of former prisoners who have become published poets, social workers, and nonprofit leaders. (Feb.)

From the Publisher

Praise for Liberating Minds:
“A valuable arsenal of information for policymakers seeking prison reform in the present political climate.”
—Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A strong argument for expanding college-level study in the nation’s prisons. Until the early 1990s, more than 700 state and federal prisons offered post secondary education. Most such programs ended after the passage of the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill, which eliminated Pell Grants for higher education for prisoners. But programs across the country—at colleges from Princeton and Boston University to Kalamazoo Valley College—have since offered such classes for thousands of prisoners with considerable success, writes former Harvard Graduate School of Education dean Lagemann (Education/Bard Coll.; An Elusive Science: The Troubling History of Education Research, 2000, etc.). Drawing on research, interviews, and her own experiences teaching in the Bard Prison Initiative, which enrolls 300 full-time students at six New York State correctional facilities, she argues there is “overwhelming evidence” that college-in-prison programs have “significant benefits” for prisoners as well as families and communities. For example, she writes, only 2 percent of Bard graduates return to prison (the national recidivism rate is 50 percent), and 75 percent are employed within a month of their release. Similar outcomes occur among inmates elsewhere. Her interviews capture the transformative effects of college study on inmates used to the stultifying routine of prison life. Many experience a newfound self-esteem and thirst for knowledge. “All I knew before was the street,” says one Bard graduate. “I know the world will be what I make of it. I can make my family proud.” Unfortunately, “comprehensive data about the range of offerings and their relative effectiveness” is lacking, and even the number of prison participants is unknown. The “best available census” found some 70,000 prisoners engaged in college study in 2004. Programs vary greatly, with most focused on vocational training. While tough-on-crime critics disparage such taxpayer-subsidized efforts, the author believes changing attitudes toward mass incarceration and the value of college for all can galvanize new public funding. A valuable arsenal of information for policymakers seeking prison reform in the present political climate.