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 students with critical thinking and communication skills to enable them to engage, critique, and transform the world around them.
- Access to higher education benefits both individuals and society. All people have the potential to build the critical skills and broad knowledge higher education provides.
- College and its associated skills help create community members who are informed and better prepared to be active and engaged decision-makers. Seeing and intervening in structural inequities is fundamental to social transformation.
- Public safety must be redefined to include restorative justice, the redressing of harm, and tools for personal transformation.
- College in prison works to break down the isolation and dehumanization that many people experience when they are involved in the carceral system. Through our work, we seek to make visible the way that intellectual connections help repair the harms of incarceration.
- Upholding the integrity of college in prison is part of charting new ways of relating to one another.
- We prioritize the inherent value of all people regardless of circumstance. We ascribe to an ethics of care as educators that shapes our responsibilities toward students.
- Honoring individual agency is key to this work. Students are active participants in their own learning pathways.
- Responsibility, transparency, and accountability are necessary parts of our conduct as an organization.
EPI Program Overview
Emerson College launched the Emerson Prison Initiative (EPI) in 2017 at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord (MCI-Concord), a men’s medium-security prison. EPI acts on the knowledge that college-in-prison programs can interrupt the cycle of incarceration. EPI offers the same courses taught on Emerson’s main campus, taught by Emerson faculty as well as guest faculty from other local colleges, and bearing official Emerson credits. EPI provides a pathway to an Emerson College Bachelor of Arts in Media, Literature, and Culture, a degree that combines Emerson’s unique strengths in media studies, literary studies, and the liberal arts.
EPI selects students through a rigorous admissions process that includes in-person interviews and an essay exam scored by a faculty panel. The acceptance rate varies by cohort, but remains highly competitive.
After an extensive accreditation process with the New England Commission of Higher Education in 2021, MCI-Concord became an approved degree-granting campus of Emerson College. In 2022, EPI began offering courses at Northeastern Correctional Center, a minimum security prison for men, in order to provide academic continuity for students transferred to the minimum during their degrees. In 2023, EPI moved the degree-granting campus from MCI-Concord to MCI-Norfolk.
To date, EPI has admitted three 20-student cohorts. Nine students from Cohort 1 have earned their Emerson College degrees while incarcerated. Four Cohort 1 students have enrolled as students at the Boston campus to continue their degrees after their release from prison.
EPI Advisory Council
- Lindsay Beamish
- Betsey Chace
- Lizzy Cooper Davis
- Sally Davidson
- Mneesha Gellman (Founding Director)
- Cara Moyer-Duncan (Assistant Director)
- Yasser Munif
- Charles Rosario
- Joshua Wachs
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