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Prison Education Program
Cornell University
115 Day Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853

(607)255-9091

Overview

Cornell Prison Classroom

The mission of the Cornell Prison Education Program (CPEP) is to provide courses leading to college degrees for people incarcerated in upstate New York State prisons; to help CPEP students build meaningful lives inside prison as well as prepare for successful re-entry into civic life; and to inform thought and action on social justice issues among past and present CPEP students, volunteers, and the wider public.

We believe in equitable access to higher education and the transformative power of intellectual development.

Our work supports a regional collaboration that brings together Cornell faculty and graduate students to teach a college-level liberal arts curriculum to a select group of students at Auburn Correctional Facility and Cayuga Correctional Facility. The credits can be applied toward an associates degree from Cayuga Community College.

Facts at a Glance

  • Number of credit-bearing courses taught in Spring 2000: 0
  • Number of credit-bearing courses taught in Spring 2005: 4
  • Number of credit-bearing courses taught in Spring 2010: 10
  • Number of credit-bearing courses taught in Spring 2015: 15

The Cornell Prison Education Program is dedicated to supporting incarcerated persons’ academic ambitions and preparation for successful re-entry. Since 2008, we have kept careful records of our students’ post-release outcomes.

  • Percentage of New York parolees who are reincarcerated, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2014: 40%
  • Percentage of CPEP students completing ≥3 courses, then reincarcerated: 7%
  • Percentage of CPEP students completing an Associate’s degree, then reincarcerated: 0%
Ed and Tyreek

New York State spends $60,076 to incarcerate a person for one year. The cost savings for the NYS taxpayer attributable to the Cornell Prison Education Program in reduced re-incarceration rates could likely pay for the entire program, with surplus savings that could be used to subsidize the education of others. Thus, the Cornell Prison Education Program could be considered a mechanism to reduce the scope of prison, save the taxpayer money, and re-direct resources toward more positive futures.