The Crito Project was happy to send Ben Walker to Université Grenoble Alpes to present on our work this week. Grenoble and the UEA are research partners, brought together through the Aurora Universities Network, and both Universities have a track record of commitment to university/prison partnerships. So it was a great opportunity to make connections between the two sister universities when Mireille Baurens invited Ben to present on the Crito Project this week.
Instead of a straight-forward project report, Ben chose to present on the history of US university/prison partnerships, outlining three outstanding examples of success from the past 20 years: Hudson Link, Inside Out and Bard College Prison Initiative (BPI). Explaining the unique pedagogical approaches of all three, and how these led to significant diversity of education provision and ends, Ben went on to explain why the Crito Project chose to take BPI as the exemplary case with which to model the development and priorities of our own project.
Chief among reasons for this decision were a) BPI’s longitudinal evidence of the success of their work, and the testimony of their alumni, b) their key commitment to ‘transplanting’ university education into the prison classroom, as untouched as possible. This method avoids the temptation to see the design of a prison academic program as an opportunity to make a distinctive political or pedagogical intervention. Finally, c) their commitment to making available their own wealth of expertise and experience to other educators, via their Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison.
His central premise was that, given the evolution of the field in the face of the adversity represented by the repeal of Pell Grants in 1994, and the myriad of different approaches developed across the US’s 230 university/prison partnerships, any attempts to implement such partnerships in Europe should be guided by the methods, pedagogies, priorities and tribulations that are well documented by experts in the US field.
We’re very grateful to Mireille and the Université Grenoble Alps for their invitation & warm welcome, and very much look forward to working closely with them, and other members of the Aurora Network, in developing expertise and research together.