Bard College admits incarcerated transfers as part of woke social justice initiative

The school has accepted 80 incarcerated transfer students from the recently closed Medaille University and Alliance University to join the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI).

BPI grants full-time enrollment to incarcerated students in order to 'transform the negative impacts of criminal punishment' like 'mass incarceration' and 'hyper-policing.'

A college in upstate New York has adopted a new enrollment program by accepting imprisoned transfers from two recently closed universities in order to ensure that “no incarcerated college student is left without the ability to complete a degree.”

Bard College has enrolled 80 transfer students to its Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) following the closures of New York State schools Medaille University and Alliance University, which both ceased operations on Aug. 31 due to financial struggles.

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Medaille’s college-in-prison program at Albion Correctional Facility for women closed in May, and Alliance’s program at Fishkill Correctional Facility for men concluded at the end of the summer. Students were then admitted into BPI after group and one-on-one advisement meetings, according to a Bard press release on Sept. 6.

Launched in 2001, BPI allows individuals to gain degrees through enrollment in full-time programs while incarcerated. The initiative helps “transform the negative impacts of criminal punishment” in communities “impacted by crises of hyper-policing and mass incarceration,” according to the BPI website.

Students can choose from a variety of courses and seminars, such as “Colonial and Global Inequalities” and “Feminism and Modern Political Thought.” 

The program culminates with the completion of the Senior Thesis Project, which is “an original, individual, focused project growing out of the student’s cumulative academic experiences.” Examples of past projects include “Black Women, Liberation Politics, and the Complexities of Intersectionality” and “Messianic Black Body: From the Raging Waters of the Tallahatchie River and the Burning Streets of Ferguson, Missouri.”

In addition to its prison program, Bard offers the BPI Education Fellowship, which is an “academic and professional development program to prepare formerly incarcerated individuals to become leading professionals in the educational space.”

Some of the fellowship’s workshops include “Restorative Justice practice in schools and communities” and “Curriculum & Racial Justice in the ED-space.”

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In February, the fellowship program hosted Yuko Uchikawa, a “Restorative Justice Practitioner,” for an interactive session and “restorative circle.”

“[Restorative Justice] is also both a commitment and a practice to disrupt racism and inequities. Harm occurs in the context of white body supremacy,” said Uchikawa in an interview with Leslie-Ann Murray, Director of Education Programs at BPI. 

“Harm impacts us not just emotionally and intellectually—it breaks our bodies. The harm sustained by Black, Indigenous, and Bodies of Color need a practice that guides us to return to our bodies and minds to heal,” she continued.

Uchikawa also noted that she was “particularly interested in how [Restorative Justice] invites the educators, one of the power holders in this structure, to reflect on and dismantle the system of harm and end the disproportionate punishment that produces traumatic outcomes for BIPOC individuals and communities.” 

Campus Reform contacted Bard College, the Bard Prison Initiative, Yuko Uchikawa, and Leslie-Ann Murray for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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