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Program History

In June 1995, the college program conducted by Mercy College at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility was terminated after 15 years of successful operation. That year, over 350 higher education programs ceased offering higher education in New York State prisons after public funding for them had been discontinued in 1994.

When the college program closed, women experienced a loss of hope about their own futures and the futures of their children. In March of 1996, a group of seven inmates met with the Superintendent Elaine Lord and long-time Bedford volunteer, Theodora Jackson, to explore the possibility of creating a new college program that would be entirely supported by private funds. 

Within a year, a college program was created that would involve a consortium of colleges, with each member contributing faculty and/or resources for courses at BHCF. The consortium became a reality under the leadership of Dr. Regina Peruggi, president of Marymount Manhattan College, who enlisted several other college presidents as members. Barnard College, Bank Street College of Education, Manhattanville College, Mercy College, Pace University, and Sarah Lawrence College joined with MMC as members of the Consortium, and in the spring of 1997, college courses were again offered at Bedford Hills.

While Marymount Manhattan College (MMC) had always been the degree granting institution, in September 2004 the Bedford Hills College Program became an extension campus of Marymount Manhattan College, and MMC now considers itself to have one student body, with some students living at Bedford Hills, and some at 71st Street. The students at Bedford take the same courses offered in Manhattan, including the core courses for the Sociology and Politics and Human Rights majors, as well as a wide variety of electives in art, history, literature, business, economics, psychology, and the sciences.

From an initial enrollment of 39 students and three classes, the program has expanded to currently involve over 175 students per semester in the Pre-College and College Program, in addition to a solid contingency of students who have already earned their Bachelor’s degrees and serve as mentors and tutors. Annually, over 200 women register for college courses.

In February 2019, in partnership with nonprofit Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, MMC opened a new teaching location at the medium-security Taconic Correctional Facility, complementing its longstanding Bedford Hills College Program. The collaboration of MMC, Hudson Link, and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) at Taconic is the first in New York State to provide an opportunity for incarcerated women to have an uninterrupted pathway to degree completion when transferred from a maximum-security facility to a medium-security facility.

As of 2019, the Bedford Hills College Program has graduated more than 235 students. The Taconic College Program held its first-ever commencement ceremony in June 2019, awarding four Associate of Arts degrees.