Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison

What We Do

The Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, based at Bard College in New York, joins together innovative college-in-prison programs across the country. Its members share the view that a liberal education can transform the lives of individual students, and our public institutions, in ways that far exceed the prevailing responses to crime, punishment, and the need for change.

The liberal arts are not defined by a fixed curriculum but rather by a commitment to rigorous methods, the questioning of conventions and received belief, and the empowerment of human reason through open and critical inquiry. The very features that make it important for cultivating a democratic society suggest the unique role that liberal education can and should play inside prison.

The Consortium currently includes Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Grinnell College in Iowa, Goucher College in Maryland, and Bard College in New York. Each builds on its own traditions and particular strengths, and each is committed to learning for its own sake. Yet each is also finding new ways to realize the power of the liberal arts to prepare people returning from prison for a life of personal flourishing, civic engagement, and professional success.


Each college in the Consortium has established satellite campuses inside its state's prison system. The school works closely with public allies in state government and networks of private supporters, but maintains the integrity and independence of the liberal arts college. At times our goals overlap with the best of the criminal justice system, but they originate elsewhere - in the unique relationship between a first-rate academic institution and its students. The result is an ambitious experiment in adult education. Launched in 2009 and currently active at multiple sites in four different states, the Consortium is working to connect as many as ten new programs across the country.