A college degree is far more than a piece of paper or letters after a name; it can alter one’s identity by instilling confidence, dignity, and possibility. Many incarcerated men and women never have the opportunity to pursue quality higher education. In fact, 61 percent of incarcerated persons have less than eight years of education. Upon release from prison or jail, they are stigmatized for their worst offense and no better off than when they entered.
Hudson Link for Higher Education brings college education and life skills to current and formerly incarcerated men and women. Active in six prisons, Hudson Link offers college preparatory courses, associate’s degrees, and bachelor’s degrees. They also partner with colleges to help students who have been released to complete their degree program on campus. Once students are released from prison, Hudson Link provides an active alumni network to help students stay connected, sharpen job readiness skills, and find jobs.
With more than 450 students enrolled annually, Hudson Link witnesses the power of education to transform lives and positively affect families. Instilled with the confidence that comes from accomplishment and empowered to set a positive example for their kids, men and women are able to begin repairing broken family relationships and embark on a path to healing that stretches far beyond prison walls.
Hudson Link has strong ties to both prison populations and corrections administration. About half its staff participated in Hudson Link programs while incarcerated and upon release, joined Hudson Link to help bring the same transformational educational opportunities to inmates. Dedicated to giving people a second chance, Hudson Link brings more than education to prisons; they bring community and hope. The educational journey to a degree in prison fosters a sense of community, accomplishment, personal responsibility, and hope for a life many never thought possible. The downstream impact is tremendous.
In New York State, 42 percent of men and women released from prison return within three years — fueling the negative effects of incarceration on communities, as well as draining the state’s resources. In contrast, only 4 percent of Hudson Link graduates return to prison. While it costs $60,000 a year to incarcerate one person in New York, it costs Hudson Link only $5,000 to educate someone for one year. In addition to saving the state millions of dollars every year, Hudson Link is empowering individuals to return to their communities with confidence, knowledge, skills, and tools to give back. To date, Hudson Link has awarded over 500 degrees.
Sean Pica was one of five boys in his family – the only one to go to prison and the only who went to college. Over the course of 16 years, Sean stayed at nine different maximum security prisons. At every one, he signed up for classes – for his family more than for himself. A couple classes quickly turned into over 400 college credits, a bachelor’s degree from Nyack College, and two master’s degrees from NYTS and Hunter College. For the last nine years, Sean has served as the executive director of Hudson Link. In his tenure, the program has expanded from one site and one college partner to six sites and seven college partners. Having garnered trust and respect throughout the prison population, Sean has inspired incarcerated men and men to pursue an education, while also building lasting partnerships with leading academic institutions to bring the best academic programs to prisons.
Hudson Link is a 2017 S+ Catalyst. Through participation in the Catalyst Program, Hudson Link receives training from industry experts in organizational development, branding, measurement and growth, and strategic relationships to amplify their impact and strategically expand their reach.