Inmates are Getting Degrees at IVY League Universities in Fight Against Prison Industrial Complex

LRdegree

Credit: Melanie Stetson Freeman

Brianna Acuesta | True Activist

This NY Program Is Helping Inmates Get An Ivy League Education

Hudson Link provides programs where inmates can earn degrees, decreasing their risk of re-incarceration and saving taxpayers millions.

Hudson Link, an organization dedicated to providing opportunities for higher education to inmates in New York, has been an active program in New York state prisons since 1998 and has awarded 303 degrees to inmates since 2001.

Naysayers may say that inmates should not be allowed the opportunity to improve themselves while in prison because of their legal predicament and the cost to taxpayers.

However, studies show that when inmates receive a higher education, they are less likely to return to prison, which costs taxpayers much more than helping inmates successfully re-enter society.




The national rate of re-incarceration in the U.S. is 43%, meaning that 43% of adult inmates that are released from prison end up back in there within 3 years.

Meanwhile, less than 2% of Hudson Link’s alumni have returned to prison after release since the program began 16 years ago.

This is a significant decrease in inmates that are re-incarcerated, and it’s no coincidence.

Studies show that the impact on the students and the community is immeasurable and that students feel more confident, with more purpose and hope, while increasing their ability to think critically, understand consequences, and make intelligent choices.

The degrees also provide them with more opportunities to become employed, to be productive citizens upon release, and to become positive role models as citizens that have overcome extreme adversity.


Testimonies for the program from inmates include Aisha Elliot’s statement:

“Knowing I was going to get, or hoping that I will get a Columbia education was actually more exciting than hearing I was going home after doing 25 years.”

As for the community, the inmates contribute to the economy as they become skilled, educated, and productive citizens and the program reduces the overall crime rate.

The reduction in the taxpayer burden is also huge. It costs $60,000 per year to incarcerate one person in New York state.

Alternatively, it costs $5,000 per year for one inmate to work towards their Bachelor’s Degree, so over seven years it costs $35,000.

This is a small investment to make to nearly ensure that the graduated inmate does not return to prison, where one year of their incarceration costs almost double the cost of their entire education.

It’s estimated that Hudson Link saves New York taxpayers more than $10 million per year because of the education and re-entry into society skills that they provide and by preventing inmates from returning to prison.




Some of the colleges involved include Columbia, Mercy College, and Vassar College.

Elliot also said,

“Being able to disagree with somebody and it not be a conflict is serious and real. It teaches you humility.”

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