How We Work

A man speaks as others sit alongside him listening

Higher education in prison challenges the pervasive and systemic injustices that currently exclude many people from access to a quality college education.

We are working collaboratively to advance the field of higher education in prison by supporting practitioners and students, producing reliable data and research, and communicating the need, importance, and value of quality higher education in prison.

We advance the field of higher education in prison by:

Building Community

We are creating opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration, networking and resource sharing. We are providing a forum for discussion, problem solving, and exchange of ideas.

Shaping Dialogue

We are challenging stereotypes and stigmas surrounding people who are incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, including shifting away from polarizing and/or dehumanizing language.

Supporting Quality Practice

We are producing reports and toolkits and providing training to anyone seeking to launch, expand or improve upon a program offering in-prison higher education.

Producing Knowledge

We are generating reliable data and metrics that demonstrate the need, importance and value of quality in-prison higher education programs.

Ensuring Sustainability

We are working to frame the most significant issues in the field and to work in partnership with funders to support the sustainability of programs throughout the country.


“It was really the community college that gave me the structure to transform my life. Higher education not only had an impact on my life, but it also had an impact on the life of my family members and my community. I am able to share the knowledge that I have and make it accessible to them.”
Danny Murillo, Program Analyst, Campaign for College Opportunity
Founding Advisory Board Member, Alliance for Higher Education in Prison
“When we started our program we worked with an advisory council of women inside; the women actually invited us to do our program. It's always been a collaboration. I think as an extension of that, I see more of this work being led by people who are justice-impacted, formerly incarcerated, and people moving into leadership positions not just in this field but in policy and in the university. My organization will hopefully be directed by a former student. That will, I think, really change the landscape of how we think about education in prison and criminal justice in general.”
Tanya Erzen, Academic Director, Freedom Education Project at Puget Sound
Associate Professor of Religion, University of Puget Sound
“The kind of change that education is making is inspiring for everyone. It affects the individual who's receiving the education. It affects the people around them within the prison. And it affects their families and communities without them having ever set foot outside of the prison.”
Brandon Warren, Transition Specialist, Lee College
“My hope for the movement for higher education in prison is for institutions of higher education to realize that we have dehumanized a population and that anytime you do that it's affecting all of society. We need to be cognizant of it. We need to course correct as soon as possible instead of discriminating against more people we need to include them into our higher education practices.”
Sameen Wajid, Monitoring Consultant, UNICEF
“Over the last two decades, the 700% increase in incarceration was concentrated among people with no high school diploma or GED. By and large incarcerated people are not offered any access to higher education. According to our research, less than 5% of colleges and universities that are regionally accredited in the US are providing higher education in prison. Colleges and universities must recognize incarcerated people as potential college students, fully capable, and worthy of their investment.”
Erin Castro, Assistant Professor of Higher Education, University of Utah
Co-founder and Co-director, University of Utah Prison Education Project
“I would say that higher education has allowed me to find out what potential I have, the abilities or capabilities I have, and figure out my calling in life. And that is, helping those who I left behind.”
Terrell Blount, Program Officer, Laughing Gull Foundation
"At Rutgers University we have a group of students that are matriculating onto campus and they form a sense of community through the support programs that we offer, and they form a sense of community amongst themselves. The kinds of support system that they create for each other, and the way in which they lift each other up, and sometimes drag each other through completion is really amazing to watch. They really pull together and take care of each other and get each other through to graduation."
Chris Agans, ExecutiveDirector, New Jersey Scholarship and
Transformative Education in Prisons Consortium (NJ-STEP), Rutgers University