Prison Teaching Initiative

Prison Teaching Initiative

The Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI) aims to reduce incarceration rates in New Jersey by increasing access to post-secondary education in state prisons. Courses in math, natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences are taught by volunteer instructors, including university faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, alumni, and community members. Courses are developed by PTI instructors, accredited through Mercer County Community College, and lead to an Associate of Arts degree. Credits earned can be transferred to any community and four-year college in the state.

PTI is a founding member of NJ-STEP (NJ-Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons), which coordinates higher education throughout the state. We currently teach at the A.C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility in Bordentown, Garden State Youth Correctional Facility in Yardville, East Jersey State Prison in Rahway, and Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility in Annandale.

Why Prison Teaching?

Approximately 95 percent of all inmates in New Jersey prisons will be released. In addition to providing intellectual engagement during incarceration and improving job prospects after release, in-prison education provides a positive social network, support system, and commitment schedule that helps inmates readjust to life outside of prison. In particular, access to post-secondary education while incarcerated has been shown to drastically reduce an individual’s chances of returning to prison after release.

PTI Instructors & Curriculum

PTI courses are taught by small teams of instructors who collaborate on course design and share teaching and grading responsibilities. University faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, alumni, and community members interested in teaching and, together with undergraduate students, in tutoring, are welcome to volunteer. Administrative assistance is also needed to maintain the program’s infrastructure. Those volunteers who will be working in the prisons must pass a NJ Department of Corrections criminal background check and attend an orientation session prior to participating in the program.

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Sandy Sussman, PTI Program Coordinator, at ssussman@princeton.edu.

History

PTI was founded in 2005 by Science and Technology Council postdoctoral fellow Mark Krumholz ’98, postdoctoral fellow Jenny Greene, and Princeton University Professor Jill Knapp – all members of the Department of Astrophysical Sciences. Since then, more than 500 inmates have received college credit in PTI courses and completed degrees or gained entry to colleges and universities statewide, including Rutgers University, Thomas Edison State College, Essex County Community College, Raritan Valley Community College, Mercer County Community College.

NJ-STEP

NJ-STEP (Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons) is a consortium of nine colleges and universities across the state, the NJ Department of Corrections, and the NJ State Parole Board. In addition to providing post-secondary education, NJ-STEP members and staff help students plan for their release from prison and support their continued education. The consortium is housed at Rutgers University - Newark and is made possible by a conglomerate of funders, managed by the Vera Institute of Justice, that include the Ford, Bill & Melinda Gates, Kaiser, Soros, and the Sunshine Lady Foundations. To learn more, visit the NJ-STEP website.