Once college was reestablished in the facility, the Leslie Glass Foundation offered to fund a research project documenting the impact of college on the prison community. Michelle Fine, Professor of Social/Personality Psychology at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, agreed to become the Principal Investigator of the Project and hired a team of graduate students to help conduct the study: Melissa Rivera (Harvard), Rosemarie A. Roberts (Graduate Center), María Elena Torre (Graduate Center) and Debora Upegui (Graduate Center). It was determined early in the design phase that the validity of the project would be strengthened with inmate researchers on the research team.44 The Superintendent was consulted and agreed to the design after the New York State Department of Correctional Services provided official approval. A team of inmate researchers joined the research: Kathy Boudin, Iris Bowen,45 Judith Clark, Aisha Elliot,46 Donna Hylton, Migdalia Martinez,47 Pamela Smart and Missy (preferred name). In 1999, Research Specialist III E. Michele Staley of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (NYSDOCS) joined the research effort by conducting a longitudinal analysis of post-release reincarceration data.
The research was designed to answer four questions:
1. What are the fiscal costs and benefits of providing college to women in prison, and what are the fiscal costs and benefits of withholding college from women in prison?
Outcomes include: financial costs of provision of college and calculations for reincarceration rates with and without college.
2. What is the impact of college-in-prison on the safety and management of the prison environment?
Outcomes include: prison disciplinary environment, prison climate, corrections officers views of and experiences with college and faculty views of the college program.
3. What are the personal and social effects of college-in-prison on students and their children?
Outcomes include: academic, social and psychological effects including academic achievement and perseverance; sense of responsibility for past and future; personal transformation and civic engagement in prison and beyond.
4. What is the impact of the college experience on the transition home from prison?
Outcomes include: economic well being; health; civic participation; continued pursuit of higher education; relations with family, children and friends; reincarceration rates.
Conducted over the course of three years, the research design required a quantitative analysis to assess the extent to which college affected reincarceration rates (conducted by the New York State Department of Correctional Services) and thereby affected the tax burden imposed on citizens of New York State for prisons (conducted in part by Former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections, Commissioner of Probation and Deputy Director, NYC Office of Management and Budget, Michael Jacobson). A qualitative analysis was undertaken to determine the psychosocial effects of college on the women, the prison environment, the children of students and post-release transitions (see Table 1).
|Table 1. Research Questions, Methods, Sample and Outcomes
|* Some women participated in more than one data source.
The methods include:
I. Archival analysis reviewing the records of the college program since inception (1997), tracking rates of persistence, women drafted (transferred to other prisons mid-sentence), drop out rates, racial and ethnic distribution, percent in pre-college and college courses.
II. Inmate initiated research on the impact of college, which consisted of one-on-one interviews of four to five women each by 15 inmates (N=65 interviews by 15 inmates).
III. Focus group interviews with women at BHCF, selected on the basis of the womens status in the program: drop outs; ABE/GED students; pre-college students; first-time college students; adolescent children of women in college; college leaders/ mentors; women in the ESL class (N=43). See Appendix A for racial and ethnic breakdown of sample.
IV. Individual interviews with women who were in college at BHCF, now released from prison (N=20). Each interview was conducted at the Graduate Center, City University, and lasted anywhere from one to three hours. Women were com-pensated $50 for participating in the interview.
V. Interviews with Corrections Administrators and Officers In order to understand the impact of the college program on the prison environment, interviews were con-ducted with administrators and corrections officers (N=6). Each interview lasted between 20 and 40 minutes.
VI. Focus group interviews and surveys of educators In order to document the impact of the college program on educators and college commu-nities, a focus group with college faculty (N=20) was conducted by the research team in 1999. A survey was distributed to faculty in the Spring 2000 semester (N=33). Two group discussions were held with the Presidents of the Consortium universities (7 Presidents or designees).48
VII. Quantitative tracking of women who attended college while in prison and a comparison group of women who did not attend college while in prison. Two hundred and seventy four women who partic-ipated in the Mercy College program at BHCF and a compar-ison group of 2,031 women who did not attend college during the same period of time were tracked statistically to document the rates of reincarceration for: women who did not attend college, women who attended some classes but received no degree, women who earned an Associates degree and women who earned a Bachelors degree. This analysis was conducted by E. Michele Staley of the New York State Department of Correctional Services. 49
VIII. Cost/Benefit Analysis of the College Bound Program relying upon data from 2000 2001. This analysis was conducted, in part, by Professor and Former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections, Michael Jacobson.50