NYS Assembly Committee on Correction Hearing re: academic and vocational prison programs, November 29, 2012

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Academic and vocational programs inside of prisons have the power to transform lives. They can inspire tremendous personal growth, and empower their participants to become leaders, teachers, and role models for other people in prison and in their home communities. Moreover, they have been shown to increase opportunities for employment and overall success upon release.

Despite their enormous potential, New York has seen a significant reduction in staffing and resource allocation for these programs. Individuals’ abilities to participate are limited, vocational and college programs are being closed, and support for peer-run initiatives has declined.

In addition to reversing this trend and reallocating greater resources to these programs, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) could dramatically improve the effectiveness and relevance of its programs by:

  • offering academic classes that are more in line with students’ educational levels
  • matching vocational programs to regional- and sector-based assessments of employment availability
  • offering newer technologies, such as internet research and free online courses
  • enhancing support for people in prison to peer-facilitate and teach classes, workshops, and programs.

Jack Beck, director of the CA’s Prison Visiting Project, testified before a Hearing of the New York State Assembly Committee on Correction on this matter on November 29, 2012. Download Beck’s full testimony below.

Download testimony