University of Vermont

University Communications

UVM Announces Liberal Arts in Prison Program

UVM green in winter
(Photo: Sally McCay)

The University of Vermont is launching a new program aimed at helping incarcerated men and women take coursework towards a college degree while serving their sentences.

The UVM Liberal Arts in Prison Program (LAPP), administered by the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, will begin offering courses to qualified prisoners in cooperation with the Vermont Department of Corrections beginning in the spring 2018 semester.

“We know that a college degree is a big factor in quality of life and future earnings for everyone in our society—that’s just as true for those who are incarcerated,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Bill Falls. “Our liberal arts mission shouldn’t necessarily end at the prison gate.”

With the launch of this program, UVM joins the Consortium of the Liberal Arts in Prison which originated at Bard College. Along with Bard, consortium members include Goucher College, Grinnell College, Wesleyan University and Dwight Hall at Yale University. UVM becomes the first public institution, and the first land grant university, to join the consortium.

University educators already have experience teaching courses in prison settings. Kathy Fox, professor of sociology at UVM and LAPP program leader, is currently teaching a pilot course on the topic of “Justice” which includes both 11 UVM undergraduates and 11 women incarcerated at the South Burlington Regional Correctional Facility.

“Higher education can change the equation for motivated prisoners who otherwise have few career choices when they are released,” Fox said. “For people with a criminal record, having a college degree greatly improves the odds for employment and successful reintegration to society. Beyond the practical, a liberal arts education provides deeper meaning for participants, as well as a greater degree of optimism and satisfaction with life.”

The program is not a watered-down version of an education received by a typical UVM undergraduate; in keeping with Consortium of the Liberal Arts in Prison academic standards, LAPP courses will be rigorous, with attention to developmental skills and an ambitious college workload.

The new program was announced before a talk delivered last evening at UVM’s Davis Center by Daniel Karpowitz, director of policy and academics for the Bard Prison Initiative and a co-founder of the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison. Karpowitz told the story of BPI’s development from a small pilot project to a nationwide network.