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Our Work

Jesuit Education

Education is about continuing the work of God’s creation. Ignatius Loyola understood and embraced the role of being a co-laborer in the Creation story. His comment, “The gentle disposition of God’s providence requires the cooperation and collaborating of its creatures,” found in the Preamble to the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, is illustrative of his belief and commitment to companionship in the work of Creation.

We know that education occupies a significant portion of the portfolio of Jesuit works. This has been the case since the first institution was adopted in 1548, in Messina, Italy. The objective in the apostolic endeavor of education is to form and transform. “To help souls” is the phrase attributed to our sacred duties and ministries, including those taking place in a classroom.

JPEN is a response to the Four Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus (2019-2029):

  1. Showing the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises;
  2. Walking with the marginalized;
  3. Journeying with the youth in a hope-filled future;
  4. Collaborating in the care for our common home.

Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Prison Education

Working in prisons has been a priority and preference since the early days of the Jesuits. In fact, since their beginning, many Jesuits have “served time” on both sides of the prison bars. Jerome Nadal, one of the early Jesuits argued for Jesuits being in the prisons. He said, “that we accept (this) from God… the care of those whom nobody is caring for even if there is somebody who ought to be caring for them.” 

Ignatius himself, who experienced the humiliation and dehumanization of being incarcerated, realized that he would keep being accused and jailed, for heresy, until he had an education and credentials.

The formal and current intersection of education and prisons has been percolating in the Jesuit schools for decades. The reason for this can be traced to the Jesuit “way of proceeding.” It involves reading the signs of the times, meeting people where they are, and acting accordingly.

Nine students at SCI Dallas, Pennsylvania, graduate with an Associate of Arts degree in liberal studies from the University of Scranton.

Some of these recent signs include the fact that our nation has 25% of the world’s incarcerated but only 5% of the world’s population. Another disturbing sign is that while 700,000 people are released from prison each year, one year later, 75% of those released are still unemployed.

However, there are also consoling indicators: with just some college education in a prison, recidivism is reduced by 43%. Another is the attractiveness of a college transcript to employers signaling determination, skills and dependability. Being released from prison with college credentials will enhance our work force.

The greatest sign or validation of teaching college courses in the prison is the feedback from students incarcerated and the students who make up the prison staff. Repeatedly and consistently, it’s this comment: “I feel human, again.” 

Teaching in the prisons is about an experience of shared humanity; it’s a way of continuing the work of Creation. 

Making the Case for Jesuit Prison Education

In June 2024, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities will host its first-ever Faith, Justice and Reconciliation Assembly: Creation of a Hope-filled Future. JPEN Coordinator Fr. Tom Curran, SJ, will present an important new document: Making the Case for Jesuit Prison Education, with essays from educators, theologians, civic leaders and more. 

You can download this document by clicking on the button below. 

Hear from Students

Watch a video of some of the students who are incarcerated express what they get out of their courses – it’s much more than a college education! 

Participating Schools

Learn more about the colleges and universities participating in JPEN.

Newsletter

Read the latest issue of the JPEN newsletter and join our mailing list.

History

Learn about the history of the Jesuit Prison Education Network.

How to help

You can help support our efforts to recognize the humanity of our brothers and sisters who are incarcerated by donating through this siteWhen you submit a donation, use the pull down menu to select JPEN.