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University Beyond Bars offers post-secondary education to the incarcerated in Washington State’s prisons, particularly prisoners of color, with the twin goals of reducing recidivism by preparing offenders to reenter society as successful, productive members of their communities, and to reduce prison violence by providing meaningful intellectual pursuits and hope to those who are serving time.
University Beyond Bars advocates for enlightened solutions to society’s problems beyond the wasted human potential, violence and needless expense of having the highest rate of incarceration in the world.
University Beyond Bars seeks to replace incarceration with education and to build a society where all people are given the chance to transform themselves and their communities. We provide higher education to people behind bars to salvage the wasted potential of those our society has imprisoned and to transform them into productive, contributing citizens. We work to create a cooperative learning community inside Washington State prisons where all experience is valued and the benefits of higher education are made available to all who desire them.
We do this because ...
... the United States imprisons a higher percentage of its people than any other country in the world.
... people of color are imprisoned at over ten times the rate of white people.
... currently, nearly seven out of ten prisoners released back into the community return to prison within three years.
... the single most effective way to reduce recidivism is post-secondary education.
As an organization, we strive to achieve the following goals:
To develop a model for delivering low-cost, high-quality college education to the incarcerated.
To offer basic college-level curriculum in every Washington State prison, making it possible for prisoners to earn not only transferable college credit, but also post-secondary certificates and degrees.
To create a community of learning inside the prisons around the essential elements of a liberal education: respect for knowledge, inquiry, critical thinking, creativity, and self-discipline.
To connect prisoners working for educational equality and social justice with groups and resources in the community and vice versa.
To educate the public about prisons, the criminal justice system, and effective alternatives.
To re-humanize prisoners in the eyes of the legislature, the media, and the public.
We believe college education is a basic human right and should be available to everyone, not just to those who can pay.
We believe college education should lead to greater empowerment, human dignity, self-esteem and hope.
We believe learning requires an attitude of openness to new perspectives and an ability to think critically about our own perspectives.
We believe respect for and experience of diversity helps us grow as teachers, students, and human beings.
We challenge racism and classism by embracing difference as the instrument that brings us together.
We challenge educational inequality by fostering student-centered learning, peer mentorship, and educational advocacy.
We promote personal and social transformation by creating a positive community of learning behind bars.
We promote personal and social reintegration by connecting the community of learning behind bars to communities of learning beyond prison walls.