Prison education, prison college programs, prison education administration


U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1967 Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice called for a massive increase in teachers prepared to assist in the delivery of academic programs for incarcerated people. “Substantial subsidies are needed to recruit needed specialists,” they wrote, “and to provide them with the training required to make them effective in their complex and challenging task.” Half a century later, the persistent educational deficits and need for empowering postsecondary academic programs in prisons across the United States and the world are being addressed by a wide range of responses from specialists in higher education, corrections, and research. Too often overlooked, however, are the perspectives of those specialists whose expertise comes in part from lived experience: directly affected people leading successful and meaningful interventions in rehabilitation and reentry. This paper examines the development and administration of Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, an in-prison college program run and staffed primarily by its own formerly incarcerated graduates. The importance of foregrounding the voices of directly affected people by placing them in positions of true leadership and authority – not merely as symbolic gestures or tokens – in Hudson Link’s program design and implementation is explained. Finally, the paper explores the impact of lived experience on managing and teaching in the program, as well as strategies for academic partners looking to best support interventions led by those who are closest to the problem and, in turn, closest to the solution.

Author Bio

Dr. Samuel Arroyo is a leader and expert in the field of higher education. He has helped various providers implement and restructure their program models to increase academic outcomes and degree acquisition. Moreover, he is a role model--a credible messenger--and passionate advocate for the rights of all formerly incarcerated people. Dr. Arroyo holds an Ed.D from St. John Fisher College, a Master's of Social Work from Lehman College, and a Bachelor's in Behavioral Science from Mercy College.

For the past twenty years Jorge Diaz has dedicated himself to the service of underserved and marginalized communities through work as a counselor, educator, and health service professional. He has taught as an adjunct professor for Mercy College and a facilitator in HIV/AIDS education, domestic violence prevention, and substance abuse treatment. Diaz holds a Master's in Counseling and Urban Development from the New York Theological Seminary, a Bachelor's in Behavioral Science from Mercy College, and is currently pursuing his doctorate at St. John Fisher College.

Dr. Lila McDowell is the Development Director at Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison and an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She holds a doctorate from Oxford University, where she conducted original research on higher education in prison. Prior to joining Hudson Link, Dr. McDowell worked in New York City reentry organizations including the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College and Exodus Transitional Community in East Harlem.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


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