Prison Education Programs for Women Likely to Expand Significantly

For nearly two decades, prison inmates have not been eligible for federal Pell Grants to finance higher education. But starting with the 2023-2024 school year, people in prison will be eligible to receive Pell grants in the amount of nearly $7,000 per year.

Northwestern University is off to a fast start. The Northwestern Prison Education Program has grown from a pilot serving men in a single maximum-security prison into a vast network of faculty and tutors providing an education like none other in the state to people who are incarcerated in two correctional facilities. Now, for the first time ever, women in prison in Illinois can study for a bachelor’s degree while incarcerated.

In 2021, Northwestern University enrolled its first cohort of 20 students at Logan Correctional Center in Broadwell Township, Illinois. Classes began remotely due to the pandemic but now university faculty can teach in person at the prison. The curriculum includes courses in the humanities, fine arts, social sciences, and STEM fields. Students earn course credits granted through Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies. All the program’s in-prison offerings are tuition-free.

“As our nation reckons with the systemic racism, inequities, and moral failures of the United States criminal legal system, I am thrilled that Northwestern is emerging as a national leader in empowering those who have been most impacted,” said Jennifer Lackey, director of the Northwestern Prison Education Program and the Wayne and Elizabeth Jones Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern. “Education is one of the most effective ways of investing in the values that will truly make our communities flourish, and it is critical that these opportunities be extended to incarcerated women, who are far too often forgotten when it comes to inside programming.”

Since women in prison will soon be eligible for Pell Grants, it is expected that academic programs for women in prison will grow significantly in the near future.


Filed Under: Women's Studies


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  1. Lee Asch says:

    The programs listed in the state prison system available to women in Pennsylvania is pathetic. Most of the courses have to do with cooking, cleaning and secretarial work. Now let me get this straight, the state wants to teach women…. mostly women of color to cook, clean and take orders. Sound familiar? Yes, Massa. If this is not sexism and racism, pleas explain the logic?! You wonder why most return to prison. You can make much more money peddling drugs.

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