Emerson Prison Initiative (EPI)

We are committed to transforming the meaning and impact of higher education in Massachusetts by making college education more accessible to people who are incarcerated.

Emerson Prison Initiative

Who We Are

EPI provides students incarcerated at Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord (MCI Concord) with an opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in media, literature and culture from Emerson College.

Reentry & College Outside Program (RECOUP)

EPI’s Reentry and College Outside Program (RECOUP) provides our returning students with reentry support services including college continuity resources.

Support EPI

Your donation to the Emerson Prison Initiative allows us to facilitate student learning, grow the program and support the re-entry of the students.

Contact Us

Contact the Emerson Prison Initiative.

Our Mission

EPI’s mission is to democratize access to tertiary education for those who have been historically marginalized or otherwise unable to attend college. EPI provides a rigorous liberal arts education to individuals incarcerated in Massachusetts. We believe education is fundamentally transformative. EPI aims to offer courses that are as similar as possible to our Boston campus in order to equip all students with critical thinking and communication skills to enable them to engage, critique, and transform the world around them.

Core Values

EPI is committed to:

  • The democratization of education by finding ways to make education accessible to people traditionally excluded from it based on carceral status.
  • An approach that puts students and learning first, and treats the prison as only one site among many where we can push the frontiers of justice and equity.
  • Being a leading voice in the conversation about the purpose and efficacy of prison and who has access to education.

Welcome Note from the Director

Thank you for your interest in the Emerson Prison Initiative (EPI).

We’re proud that in 2017 Emerson College became the twelfth member of the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, an umbrella organization based at the Bard Prison Initiative. Hosted by the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies here at Emerson, EPI offers Emerson College classes, taught by Emerson College faculty and bearing official Emerson College credits, to students currently incarcerated at MCI-Concord, a state-run prison. MCI-Concord is a men’s medium security facility located about 45 minutes northwest of Boston, where there has never before been sustained tertiary educational programming inside. The first cohort of accepted EPI students began coursework in fall 2017, and are diving into critical analysis, academic writing, and social science theory with much vigor.

One of my core values is the democratization of education by finding ways to make education accessible to all. Since 2016 I have been working to do just that as part of Emerson’s commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement. EPI’s work is only possible with the engagement of our community of supporters. Thank you for considering a donation to EPI, or supporting our program in whatever way is possible for you.

We invite you to be part of making education accessible to all.

mneesha_gellman [at] emerson.edu (Mneesha Gellman)title="Email Mneesha Gellman"


Photo Credits: Karen Pearson, Daniel Pedan, Derek Palmer

General Events

Innovation in Access and Equity for Incarcerated People in Massachusetts

March 24, 2023

The day-long conference "Innovation in Access and Equity for Incarcerated People in Massachusetts" was held Friday, March 24th, 2023, in the Bill Bordy Theater, 216 Tremont Street, Boston and live-streamed for those unable to attend in person. The keynote was given by Reginald Dwayne Betts (lawyer, poet, and 2021 MacArthur Fellow). Panels included data and research on the impact of college in prison, discussion with formerly incarcerated college students, and thought leaders including Lee Pelton of The Boston Foundation in conversation with Massachusetts legislators. There was also a screening of the documentary College Behind Bars, followed by a moderated discussion. The event hosted policymakers and thought leaders alongside the public to learn more about college in prison and its benefits for the Commonwealth.

College Behind Bars Screening

October 18, 2023, 4:00 p.m. EDT

Please join the Emerson Prison Initiative on Wednesday, October 18, at 4:00 p.m. for screening of College Behind Bars, a documentary film directed by award-winning filmmaker Lynn Novick, produced by Sarah Botstein, and executive produced by Ken Burns, that tells the story of a small group of incarcerated men and women struggling to earn college degrees and turn their lives around in one of the most rigorous and effective prison education programs in the United States – the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI). Emerson College's own Emerson Prison Initiative is modeled on BPI.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Rodney Spivey-Jones and Tamara 'Triizzy' Barley--two Bard Prison Initiative graduates featured in the film--and Charles Rosario, an Emerson Prison Initiative graduate.

The event will be held in the Bright Family Screening Room in the Emerson Paramount Center at 559 Washington Street, Boston, MA. Please RSVP if you are able to attend.

Back to School exhibit reception

November 2, 2023, 4:00 p.m. EDT

The Emerson Prison Initiative (EPI) presents Back to School, an exhibition of mounted essay by currently and formerly incarcerated Emerson College students in Emerson's Iwasaki Library this semester, near the main entrance.

On Thursday, November 2, at 4:00pm, EPI will hold a reception and panel for the exhibit in the library, with EPI alumni essayist Ahmad Bright and Mac Hudson, EPI Director Mneesha Gellman and EPI Assistant Director Cara Moyer Duncan. The library is located in the Walker Building, 120 Boylston Street, Boston, MA, on the third floor. Stay tuned for event flier and RSVP.

The exhibit was first curated by the Watson Institute at Brown University in the spring and was moved to Emerson this summer. We are grateful to the Watson Institute for their vision and their generosity.