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Our Work

College classes in the prisons through Jesuit institutions in the United States surfaced initially almost 30 years ago. In 2008, inspired by a segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes, featuring Bard College in upstate New York, a group of professors at Saint Louis University (SLU) decided to start teaching courses in theology at Bonne Terre Correctional Facility in Missouri. Within a few years, they would further follow the lead of the private school in upstate New York by offering college degrees. Since that time, several other Jesuit colleges have pursued similar ventures.

Fr. Tom Curran, SJ

In 2022, Fr. Thomas Greene, SJ, provincial of the USA Central Southern province of the Society of Jesus, invited the Jesuit institutions of higher learning in his province to consider forming a Jesuit network of college education in the prisons. He identified the effort as the Jesuit Prison Education Network (JPEN) and missioned Fr. Thomas Curran, SJ, to serve as its coordinator. Father Curran had served as the founder of the college credit program in Chillicothe, Missouri, known as Companions in Chillicothe, while president at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri.

The network was officially launched in early 2023 and then met in St. Louis in Fall 2023 for its first “in person” gathering to coincide with the 5th anniversary celebration of SLU’s Prison Education Program (PEP). Directors, coordinators and other staff members from seven Jesuit institutions involved with prison education, used the anniversary opportunity to share best practices and plan for bringing this mutually transformative experience to all Jesuit colleges and other institutions of higher learning.

Learn more about the evolution of JPEN.

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.