College Inside

By Charlotte West

A biweekly newsletter about the future of postsecondary education in prisons.

A biweekly newsletter about the future of postsecondary education in prisons.

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Deciding the rules of the game

Short on time? Here’s what you need to know about the public comments submitted last month on the Education Department’s proposed rules for Pell Grants for incarcerated students.Prison education programs were concerned about the role of state and federal corr…


College, clemency, and inside voices

One of our College Inside contributors got big news: Rahsaan “New York” Thomas, the inside host of the Ear Hustle podcast out of San Quentin, got word that he is going home in about 5 months. He cleared the last big hurdle last week when the California parole…


"Leave your culture and assumptions at the door"

What should educators know before walking into a prison? The landscape may look vaguely familiar, Nick Hacheney and Tomas Keen write, but don't be fooled. There's a lot outsiders can't see, and need to understand.As prison education programs are poised to exp…


“Nothing academic is offered here”

Short on time? Don't miss these highlights:Vote for our panel at SXSW EDU 2023, "From Prison to Potential—The Role of Higher Ed." I will moderate a discussion with Jody Lewen (Mt Tam College), Terrell Blount (Formerly Incarcerated College Graduates Network), …


When mass incarceration and student debt intersect

Short on time? Here are the highlights:The Education Department will be publishing the proposed regulations for restoring Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students in the Federal Register today, kicking off a 30-day public comment period. The Student B…


Who deserves mercy?

Short on time? Go straight to my story on clemency and education that dropped this morning on Open Campus and WBEZ Chicago. I first read about Johnny Pippins last fall when I was googling graduate programs in prison. It turns out, there’s not much out there o…


Scholarship behind bars

A prisoner from Mississippi and a professor from New York make an unlikely research team. Leigh Ann Wheeler, a historian at Binghamton University, was first introduced to Glen Conley in 2017 by a prison chaplain familiar with her work on Anne Moody, a civil r…


The legal education edition

For this story, I collaborated with John Corley, associate editor of the Louisiana State Penitentiary prison news magazine, The Angolite. Read a longer version, which includes updates on other members of the “last class” at Angola to receive federal Pell Gran…


Hard choices in a ‘show-me world’

Over the last month, I’ve been working with Khalil A. Scott, who is incarcerated at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina, on an essay about the lack of college programming in the young adult unit where he works as a mentor. He shared the story of 26…


Second chances

We start with several news developments this week:More on student loan relief for incarcerated borrowersBig expansion of the number of Second Chance Pell sitesSome demographic data on who exactly used Second Chance Pell during the first five years of the prog…


Breaking news: A fix for a big barrier to prison education

Student loan defaults have been a significant, little-discussed barrier to prison education. But today the Education Department announced a fix that will bring all defaulted loans into good standing, a move that could significantly increase access to college-…


A milestone in New York

The biggest headlines about prison education this month focused on the restoration of New York's Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), a need-based state financial aid program, for incarcerated students. In April, New York became the second state to repeal a stat…


The prison credential dilemma

Since Terrance Simon got out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary last year, he’s mentally prepared himself for the fact that his record might mean he doesn’t get the job when talking to prospective employers. “I go into a job interview with the mindset that t…


Comeback stories

This week, we’re featuring a guest essay by Nicholas Brooks, a writer who is incarcerated at Sullivan Correctional Facility in New York State. Nicholas profiles his friend, Daniel Sanchez, in “I wonder about comeback stories. Danny’s might be one.” Here’s an …


The power of a single book

Tucked behind an interior design shop on Greenwood Avenue in north Seattle is a hidden repository of books that will eventually find their way into prisons across the country. The collection belongs to Books to Prisoners, a nonprofit organization that traces …


The power of narrative

Two years ago Brandon Brown became the first person to earn a graduate degree while incarcerated in the state of Maine. Now he is pursuing a Ph.D. in restorative justice from George Mason University, in Virginia.Brown was able to take advantage of a departmen…


Calls for college for incarcerated youth

Four years ago, Alexandra Fields, an English professor at Middlesex College in Edison, New Jersey, was approached by a social worker from the county juvenile detention center who asked if she would be able to provide any college programming for incarcerated y…


Ban the box, not the books

There’s a lot related to writing and reading in this issue of College Inside. I’ve had the opportunity to work with several incarcerated writers, including a collaboration with Ryan Moser on the first of several stories about surprising barriers to Pell Grant…


The pendulum effect

After spending a month in Colorado for the holidays, I came back home to a mailbox filled with letters from all over the country. People have shared not only stories about the transformational power of education, but also their frustrations of being shut out …


Misconceptions, rules, and the power of self-discovery

Even before I started covering college programs in prisons, one of my favorite podcasts was Ear Hustle, which focuses on life inside San Quentin State Prison in the Bay Area. When I found out that Nigel Poor, one of the co-producers of Ear Hustle first got in…