The Cornell Prison Education Program was established to provide college courses to inmates at a maximum and medium security prison in upstate New York, and to engage Cornell faculty and students with the vital issue of the country’s burgeoning incarceration population. The Cornell Prison Education Program is dedicated to supporting incarcerated persons’ academic ambitions and preparation for successful re-entry. We believe that Cornell faculty and student engagement as instructors at correctional facilities manifests Ezra Cornell’s commitment to founding an institution where “any person can find instruction in any study.”
In the mid-1990s when an act of Congress and subsequent state legislation caused the collapse of taxpayer-funded College programs in most state prisons – a move undertaken despite ample evidence that education reduces recdivism (re-offense or parole revocation) by more than 60% – a few faculty members, led by Professor Pete Wetherbee, undertook to offer a handful of classes on a volunteer basis in Auburn Correctional Facility (a maximum security prison one hour from Ithaca). In 1999, Cornell (alone among Ivy League universities) enabled these college classes to be given for credit, charging neither tuition nor fees.