Center For Prison Education

The Center for Prison Education (CPE) expands access to bold and rigorous liberal learning, creating pathways to college for those whom higher education has traditionally left out. CPE students at Cheshire and York prisons enhance our academic community and demonstrate the power of a Wesleyan education.

Since its founding by Wesleyan undergraduates over a dozen years ago, the Center has offered some 180 courses across the liberal arts to nearly 200 students, engaging a passionate collective of Wesleyan faculty, administrators, staff, and traditional undergraduates in the project.

To date, 51 students have earned their associate's degree through the CPE partnership with Middlesex Community College (now CT State Community College), and 16 men and women have earned their Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree from Wesleyan.

  • 2009: CPE founded by Wesleyan students; 1st cohort enrolls at Cheshire
  • 2013: CPE expands to York women’s prison
  • 2018: First graduation; 19 associate’s degrees awarded via Middlesex CC partnership
  • 2021: First 7 students graduate with Wesleyan Bachelor of Liberal Studies degrees
  • To date: 51 associate’s and 16 BLS degrees earned by students in prison
York Graduation

“The CPE education …is about opening up an opportunity for new types of participation that we may not even envision.” -CPE student 

CPE alumni back in the community go on to earn graduate and professional degrees, find work in law offices and research institutes, in restaurant management and theater companies – translating their liberal learning to inspirations 

“I feel like I’ve set an example [for my kids], and that I have kind of been a better role model for them, because I felt like I wouldn’t be able to be one while I was here, but this college education has changed all that.” -CPE student

Marisol Garcia

“Prison education is less of a societal expense than incarceration is. If you educate them, they contribute to society; they become someone who is a leader within the community.” - CPE alumna Marisol Garisol, working toward her law degree

  • We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for significant partnership to our current work. The CPE is a member of the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison and indebted to the Bard Prison Initiative for BPI's critical role in our launch. Gratitude also to the Tow Foundation, the Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority, Propel Capital, the Weissberg Foundation, the Friends of Kang Yun Foundation, the Singer Foundation, and the Ford Foundation for support now and in getting us to this point. Thank you, finally, to our generous community of individual supporters for fueling the expansion of access to bold and rigorous liberal learning to CPE students, enabling their enrichment of this University community.