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I am writing to you today on behalf of the students for the Northeastern Prison Initiative,
a program pioneered by the COMM 3409 Advocacy Writing class, aimed at implementing a
Northeastern education certificate program in local Massachusetts prisons. Based on the benefits
college programs have on inmates across the country, the undeniable success of other educational
prison initiatives, and the underlying duty to community improvement that Northeastern promises
to Boston; it is in the Universitys best interest to create a college initiative program in
Massachusetts state prisons.
Once former inmates are released from prison, they are placed in onerous positions. The
United States expects these individuals to transform into to upstanding citizens who contribute to
society, but it makes it impossible for them to obtain respectable jobs due to their criminal record.
In addition, despite the many claims that we live in discrimination-free society, minorities
continue to be severely affected by institutional oppression. The current prison system
disproportionately targets low-income people of color, especially African-American men. The
current system essentially ensures that people of color are criminalized and remain in cycles of
poverty and helplessness. College prison initiatives allow inmates to develop a new sense of
identity, distance themselves from their crimes, and gain a distinct purpose in life.
College prison initiatives can help end this enduring pattern because they reduce rates of
recidivism. Recidivism is one of the largest issues within the justice system and it keeps prisons
filled to capacity. In 2005, the recidivism rate of released prisoners in a three year period was
67.8% and in five years 76.6%. However, alumni of the Bard University Prison Initiative have
recidivism rates of a mere 2% in a three-year time frame, and inmates who complete one college
course at Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow, Massachusetts are 21.9% less likely
to recidivate in a five-year span.
If we of this nation, and of this university, believe that society needs to help others so
they can help themselves and that prison is not just time for punishment but also for
rehabilitation, then it is our duty to do what we can to help as well. Boston University and Bard
College have joined with over 50 other collegiate programs in the fight to end the hypocritical
and discriminatory nature of our criminal justice system, what is stopping Northeastern?
Northeastern University is an ideal candidate for the establishment of a college prison
initiative. According to our mission statement, it is our obligation to educate students for a
lifetime of fulfillment and achievement and to create and translate knowledge to meet global
and societal needs. Not only that, our Empower campaign is built upon people empowering
people and it declares our students and faculty will master and create knowledge that improves
lives. Northeastern prides itself on a commitment to equal opportunity diversity, and social
justice through building a climate of inclusion on and beyond campus. In order for our
community to reject discrimination, we must endorse this initiative. The societal need for postsecondary prison education, and the countless lives we could improve, are reasons enough for
Northeastern to become involved in this initiative.
We ask for the Universitys support by sending a few faculty members to teach
Northeastern courses in collaboration with the longstanding already existing program at Boston
University. Over time, we hope that Northeastern will be able to create its own program that will
benefit more prisons in Massachusetts. Together, we can make a difference in lives of hundreds of
inmates and build a stronger, more equal community.