Max Kenner is the founder and executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative, a college that is spread across six interconnected prisons in New York State. We discuss the enduring value of the liberal arts, the immense power of an education on reducing recidivism, and the critical importance of deep investments in human beings.
The students at BPI have a drive to learn that reflects their awareness of the stakes of their education for the future. Thanks to the high-quality education that BPI delivers, students are able to compete for coveted spots for graduate programs at universities like Columbia, Yale, and NYU, and successfully complete their degrees there. Many BPI alumni go on to careers in the public sector that affect their home communities.
Despite the many naysayers and the persistent cynicism that Max faced, he marched on and did what was said to be impossible. He was so successful at convincing the United States that higher education should be returned to its prison systems, that the Bard Prison Initiative is now collaborating with the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison to launch and sustain college-in-prison programs across the country.
The time that human beings spend incarcerated is as real and as relevant as any other time that is spent anywhere else, as opposed to lost or wasted time. Providing college education in prison is an opportunity to invest in the people who we know will eventually rejoin, and increase the likelihood that they enrich, our communities as fully participating members of our society.
Max Kenner is the founder and executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative, a college that is spread across six interconnected prisons in New York State. He is also co-founder of the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, and recipient of numerous awards, such as the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Education.