MEDFORD / SOMERVILLE, Mass. (June 28, 2019) – A $ 100,000 grant from the Cummings Foundation will support the Tisch College Tufts University Prison Initiative (TUPIT), which provides high-level college courses for men incarcerated at the Massachusetts Correctional Facility in Concord. , a medium-security prison in Massachusetts, offering inmates the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree before they are released from prison and returned to society.
By providing educational opportunities that reduce recidivism rates, TUPIT aims to improve self-esteem, cultivate resilience, foster hope for the future, transform the prison environment and provide a pathway to access to employment for the majority of its students who will be released.
College prison programs have been shown to reduce recidivism, lower crime rates, increase employability, help make prisons safer, and provide educational opportunities for populations who may not have had them there. access previously due to socio-economic circumstances and systematic inequities.
Students in the TUPIT program are selected through a competitive admission process and earn transferable college credits from Tufts. Since Tufts does not typically offer an associate’s degree, TUPIT has developed a relationship with Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) in Charlestown, Mass. Through TUPIT, Tufts offers courses and most faculty members, while BHCC will award the degree.
Cummings grant funds – to be disbursed over three years – will pay for student course materials and small stipends for faculty members teaching TUPIT courses, in addition to their regular course load. The aim of the program is to endow the 25 students in this year’s “class” in December 2021 with an associate degree in liberal arts, a degree that also makes it easier to continue their studies in a bachelor’s degree program. TUPIT has so far worked with around 80 people incarcerated in a variety of programs and facilities.
“A revolutionary program like TUPIT combats systemic barriers to access to education and improves the lives of these men, both in prison and at home after their release,” said Alan Solomont, Dean of Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University. “This innovative program supports the civic life of participants and helps build more resilient communities.”
The National Institute of Justice reports that more than 75 percent of those released from state prisons are reincarcerated within five years. In Massachusetts, the Council of State Governments Justice Center reported that the recidivism rate is 31.6% after three years.
However, studies that focus on the impact of college education have consistently found that the national recidivism rate for people who receive a college education falls below 10 percent. When these students graduate, the recidivism rate drops even more, with some studies suggesting it is less than 2%.
“Participants in this program crave opportunities they missed and are some of the most dedicated, energetic and hardworking students that my fellow faculty members and I have known anywhere,” said Hilary Binda, Principal founder of TUPIT and lecturer at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) at Tufts University. “For many, being in the TUPIT program at MCI-Concord doesn’t offer a ‘second chance’ – it’s a first chance.”
The courses offered include, among others, introduction to biology, poetry, health and human rights, acting theater, international law and civil society, drawing, history of African American music and quantitative reasoning.
“Studying these varied topics encourages students to develop the curiosity, self-esteem, empathy, and critical collaborative skills that are the foundation of civic leadership,” said Binda.
Tufts’ participating professors include renowned and award-winning academics. They represent various academic disciplines and come from many schools in Tufts including the School of Arts and Sciences, Tufts SMFA, School of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine, and Fletcher School.
Through its relationship with the Massachusetts Department of Correction, this innovative program also hopes to track data to measure changes in levels of student involvement in reported prison incidents. Additionally, the program plans to track employment and recidivism rates after graduates release. If the program is successful, it could serve as a framework for other university-prison programs.
In addition to receiving generous support from the Cummings Foundation, TUPIT has raised over $ 20,000 through the Tufts crowdfunding platform.
The Cummings Foundation, Inc., based in Woburn, Massachusetts, was established in 1986 by Bill Cummings, a Tufts alumnus and trustee emeritus, and his wife, Joyce Cummings. The Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including the New Horizons retirement communities in Marlborough and Woburn, Massachusetts. His most significant commitment to date has been to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Additional information is available at CummingsFoundation.org.
About Tufts University
Tufts University, located on the campuses of Boston, Medford / Somerville and Grafton, Massachusetts, and Talloires, France, is recognized among the leading research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a worldwide reputation for academic excellence and for preparing students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all of Tufts’ campuses, and collaboration between faculty and students in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in the schools of the university is widely encouraged. .