IC to Pilot Prison Education Program

By Maddie Veneziano ’20, December 12, 2018
Faculty will teach inmates at Elmira Correctional Facility.

Ithaca College will soon offer credit-bearing courses at Elmira Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison for adult men in Elmira, New York. In the spring of 2019, the college is beginning a two-year pilot program as part of a partnership with Cornell University’s Prison Education Program.

The IC Prison Education Program will increase inmates’ potential for employment opportunities and provide critical thinking skills, making them less likely to reoffend after they are released from prison, according to Jennifer Wofford, director for extended studies, whose office will coordinate the program.

According to the Cornell Prison Education Program, education can reduce the likelihood of reoffending by more than 60 percent. But there is little to no state or federal funding for college-level education programs in New York State prisons. Wofford said this leaves private institutions like Ithaca College and Cornell to fill the gaps.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Wofford. “I think private institutions are a crucial part of the solution to mass incarceration.”

The college will offer one course in each spring, summer and fall term during the duration of the program. Wofford said faculty from each of IC’s schools have expressed interest in the program.

Moustafa Abu El Fadl, an assistant professor in the School of Business, will teach the college’s first course at Elmira, Introduction to Business.

Fadl expects teaching at Elmira Correctional Facility to be much different from Ithaca College. For example, the student inmates will not have access to computers or the internet, and course material will have to be approved weeks in advance.

The Prison Education Program is not IC’s only effort focused on incarcerated individuals. IC Books Thru Bars sends books to inmates across the country. The Center for Civic Engagement’s HEARD (Human Expression through the Arts: Resident Development) program works with student organizations, faculty and staff, and Ithaca community members to provide creative arts outreach to incarcerated boys and men. As part of the MacCormick Literary Project, Park Scholars from the Roy H. Park School of Communications provide literary lessons to justice-involved youth at the MacCormick Secure Center in Brooktondale, New York.