Trinity Faculty: Educate Women in Prison and Teach Community Learning Focused on Incarceration

The Trinity College Office of Community Learning seeks faculty members to continue prison education at York Correctional Institution and Community Learning courses on incarceration. Free to Succeed (FTS) is a unique program for women that begins during their incarceration at York, the only women’s prison in Connecticut, located in Niantic and housing about 1,000 inmates. The FTS program begins with enrollment in the Trinity Prison Seminar Series (TPSS) where York inmates participate in college classes taught by a group of Trinity College faculty about a chosen theme examined from multidisciplinary perspectives. This approach exposes students to a variety of academic disciplines while grading them as if they were sitting in a traditional campus-based classroom. The courses have Trinity’s Human Rights Studies Program as their curricular home. Participants earn Trinity College credits and begin to develop their college transcripts.  Some women will complete their Associates Degree while at York through a partnership with Charter Oak State College.

Postsecondary education is a powerful deterrent to recidivism and re-incarceration; it is also one of the scarcest programs in prison. Studies consistently show that education, particularly higher education, is one of the most effective ways to break cycles of poverty, incarceration and re-incarceration. (http://www.communityalternatives.org/pdf/passport/Benefits-of-Higher-Ed.pdf).  A 2013 Rand Corporation Study indicates incarcerated people participating in prison education programs are 43% less likely to recidivate. By 2020, 65% of jobs will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school. However, overall only 11% of incarcerated people in state prisons and 24% of those in federal prisons will have completed at least some postsecondary education (https://perma.cc/2RPN-8K6Q).

Free to Succeed works to support the whole woman, her needs, and her goals both in prison and upon release. Community Partners in Action, Resettlement Program (CPA/RP) and the Judy Dworin Performance Project (JDPP) provide additional services to assist reentry into the community and include support needed to obtain a stable living situation, a strengthened sense of self-identity, and enrollment in 2 year and 4 year colleges. The Resettlement Program helps with transitional housing, long-term case management and establishing healthy living patterns. Judy Dworin Performance Project provides arts programming ranging from paid professional performance training and experiences in Stepping Out, to arts engagement with Trinity College students through New Beginnings. This innovative field study is part of HRST 348 Justice Alternatives and the Arts and includes students and women and men returning from prison who have been part of JDPP’s programs. There are two other courses that examine the relationship of prison, arts, literature and performance: HRST 373 Human Rights and Performance and ENGL 209 Prison Literature. These courses also provide Trinity students with both experiential and analytical perspectives on mass incarceration and part of a larger cohort of prison-related courses at Trinity that one day is hoped to make possible a Prison Studies concentration.

If you are interested in learning more about teaching through the Free to Succeed (FTS) and/or Trinity Prison Seminar Series (TPSS)  program at York Correctional Institution or becoming a mentor to the released women, please contact Sheila Fisher, Professor of English  sheila.fisher@trincoll.edu. For students interested in participating in the Human Rights courses described contact Judy Dworin judy@judydworin.org or Joe Lea joseph.lea@trincoll.edu.