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Reflecting Our Values in the PBS Docuseries College Behind Bars

By Lesley Neff, M.A. | November 19, 2019 

This holiday season, over two million Americans will be incarcerated.

The Marian University community is excited about the upcoming release of College Behind Bars, a four-part documentary directed by award winning filmmaker, Lynn Novick; produced by Sarah Botstein, and executive producer, Ken Burns, set to air on PBS on November 25 and 26, 2019. This docuseries is sure to compel audiences across the nation to acknowledge the powerful and uplifting affects education provides inmates in our prison system: and the passion of those who inspire it.

Marian celebrates being the degree-offering institution in The Women’s College Partnership at the Indiana Women’s Prison (IWP), a joint venture between Marian and the Bard Prison Initiative. Just as Marian prepares a Thanksgiving dinner celebration for our students, it is also a time to show gratitude to our partners, faculty, and students. 

Marian University has become the newest member of BPI’s Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, which collaborates with colleges and universities to catalyze, launch, and sustain college-in-prison programs across the country. BPI spent nearly two years designing the program and fundraising for the launch of the Women’s College Partnership at the Indiana Women’s Prison.

Admitted students at the maximum security prison will have the opportunity to first earn an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts degree, followed by bachelor’s degrees, from Marian University. Classes began in February at IWP; we are currently in the third semester of the pilot program and look forward to a strong 2020 and our first graduates.

This past spring, Indiana Department of Correction Commissioner Robert Carter said, “This partnership with Marian University will change lives. It offers the opportunity for incarcerated women to receive higher education that will not only expand their knowledge base, it will greatly improve their chances of finding meaningful employment upon release. Education and employment together offer incarcerated inmates a future of self-reliance, and the opportunity to grow in ways that can improve their standing within their family and their community.” 

Gay Lynn Crossley is one of many Marian University professors who has been teaching classes for the Women’s College Partnership at Indiana Women’s Prison. She explained that the students have demonstrated, “an abundance of acceptance and graciousness. They work extremely hard, creating an intense and passionate classroom environment that has taught [me] acceptance, forgiveness, and flexibility.” Crossley also said that she, “has been truly inspired by them.”

Watch College Behind Bars on PBS November 25 and 26, and you’ll understand why.

For additional details on the documentary, please view the link below. For more information or to become involved, please contact Lesley Neff, lneff@marian.edu.

Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season!  

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