Michelle Fine Response


Marie Elena Torre and Michelle Fine’s “Extending Affirmative Action to Higher Education in Prison” goes into detail to explain the effect a college education has on prisoners. Both authors had conducted their examinations in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a women’s prison, to record and document the academic, financial, and municipal consequences for women prisoners, as well as their children and the prison’s environment as a whole. It is easy to understand why the women had taken this project on; Affirmative Action is an extremely controversial issue because it provides special opportunities for discriminated against groups in society. These disadvantaged groups can include immigrants, and racial minorities. More precisely, this policy has gathered resilient disparagers in terms of prisoners actually deserving the education, and whether or not they do something with their newly acquired education when they have fully served their sentence. This is all while attempting to combat the fact that New York State had spent more of its annual financial budget on prisons, rather than public universities, which (understandably) brings up the question of why the government has its money focused on penitentiaries, when the argument is that it has a much bigger responsibility in tending to the much bigger population of children that are in school.

In the work that I do, Bedford is continually talked about as a near second-class citizen, with Oz Rikers, the Great and Powerful, continually running the conversation. I had heard of Rikers several times, but the women’s prison was not something I was even a little bit familiar with. Of course, the reading did not really speak much about the complications of trying to raise children while in prison (nor did it explain that women are forever treated as though we are a minority all to ourselves, when in fact we are the majority), but the statistics on education were incredibly interesting. During their research Torre and Fine found that over 75% of Bedford Hills’ women prisoners were mothers, and 78% of them are from New York City’s suburban areas. Women without college in prison were almost four times more likely to be returned to custody than females who did take part in an education program.

I could speak for three days about the obvious issues women suffer through as they are put through prison, but I will leave it with a conversation I had with a boy last semester. The teacher had asked us why more women were in prison than before (the correct answer being because their dirtbag boyfriend had dragged them to whatever crime scene was waiting to become that), and he had answered, “It’s because they keep murdering their husbands, the bitches!”

Fatime stopped me from decking the kid, but it made me realize that people really, really don’t understand why women need education programs in prison. I can only hope that the students in the class read this article with an open mind. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for the women that are trapped there*.


*To be fair, I can’t imagine what it must be like when anyone is in prison. There are so many things we could do besides incarcerate people. But an overwhelming amount of men in prison are not responsible for other, younger mouths to feed.


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