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Prison Education Initiatives

The Kaplan Humanities Institute has a history of partnership and collaboration with prison education programs within and outside of Northwestern. Many Kaplan faculty and Franke Fellows have taught in these programs and helped to provide planning and leadership for the initiatives. The Institute also co-presents public programming with program organizers.

Northwestern Prison Education Program

The Northwestern Prison Education Program (NPEP) is an initiative of Northwestern to provide a high-quality liberal arts education to incarcerated students in Illinois in partnership with Oakton College and the Illinois Department of Corrections. NPEP is the only bachelor’s degree-granting program for incarcerated students offered by a top 10 university in the United States.

In addition to expanding access to college-level courses for a systematically disadvantaged population, this initiative strives to enhance Northwestern's academic mission by fostering a dynamic and diverse intellectual community extending beyond the university's campuses. By providing undergraduate, graduate, and professional students and faculty at Northwestern and Oakton with opportunities to teach and learn alongside incarcerated students, NPEP is giving the next generation of citizens, lawyers, and scholars the tools to confront the grave problems that plague our nation's criminal justice system.

At the foundation of NPEP’s work lies the transformative power of education. Watch the video below to learn more about the program's mission and to hear directly from some NPEP students at Stateville Correctional Center:


Read about 16 students at Stateville Correctional Center who earned bachelor's degrees:

Northwestern Prison Education Program students first incarcerated people to graduate from a top 10 university


Prison + Neighborhood Art Project

Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project (PNAP) is a visual arts and education project that connects teaching artists and scholars to incarcerated students at Stateville Maximum Security Prison through classes, workshops, a policy think tank, and guest lectures. Classes cover subjects ranging from poetry, visual arts, and creative writing to political theory, social studies, and history. PNAP also offers a tuition-free degree-granting program at Stateville in partnership with the University Without Walls at Northeastern Illinois University. These classes serve as an opportunity for students to connect with artists, scholars, and writers from the region; expand their cultural and political education; and communicate complex ideas. PNAP courses develop projects—visual art, creative writing, and critical essays—which are the basis for exhibitions, events, and publications that are shared both within and across the walls of the prison.