What’s Happening With College Behind Bars?

The vast majority of the 2.2 million Americans behind bars get almost no formal higher educational services, meaning they have little opportunity to develop new skills that might help them thrive upon release. 

But now, despite today’s polarized political environment, there’s a bipartisan push to improve prisoners’ access to higher education. Proposals such as Pell Grants for prisoners and STEM training programs for the incarcerated are winning support from Republicans and Democrats.  

EWA is providing a unique opportunity to jumpstart stories on this important topic in this webinar featuring a variety of experts: researchers, former prisoners and a former warden.  You’ll get on-the-record details about programs that contribute to positive environments inside correctional facilities and enable former prisoners to land and keep good jobs. And you’ll hear about the outlook for furthering higher education in prison under President-elect Joe Biden.


  • Bradley Custer, a senior policy analyst for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress
  • Michelle Jones, a third year doctoral student at New York University who earned a bachelor’s degree from Ball State University while incarcerated
  • James McKinney, a former Iowa state prison warden
  • Emily Norweg, a fifth year doctoral candidate in the Georgetown University Department of History who focuses on the link between educational inequities and mass incarceration
  • Jamaal Abdul-Alim, education editor, The Conversation (moderator)

This webinar was presented on December 3, 2020.

What’s Happening With College Behind Bars?