Each year 650,000 inmates exit prisons; a disproportionate share are black men. Indeed, at least one-quarter of black men have criminal justice involvement. Without effective reentry programs, joblessness and recidivism follow. All agree that educational enhancements should be an important component of reentry initiatives. There is, however, a struggle between those who advocate expanding access to academic programs leading to four-year degrees versus those who emphasize certificate and other training programs.
Last month, the New York Review of Books glowingly reviewed books that not only advocated for academic programs but also argued against vocational ones. This misguided myopia is divorced from reality.
The reviewed books were written by participants in the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) program that serves the New York prison population. We are told that it transforms inmates who “lack more than the rudiments of basic literacy” into disciplined students who attain four-year liberal arts degrees. In defending its liberal arts approach, the article....
Robert Cherry is the Stern Professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center