History and Background
In 1994 the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act barred people incarcerated in the U.S. from receiving Pell Grants. This piece of legislation effectively ended prison higher education in the U.S., as virtually all of the approximately 350 programs around the country shut down for lack of funds.
The College Program at San Quentin was founded in the wake of this disaster. Initiated by a professor from UC Davis, in cooperation with then-Patten College and members of the Education Department at San Quentin, the Program began in the fall of 1996 with two classes, a volunteer coordinator, and no budget.
Fundraising efforts to support and expand the Program were started in 2000. In 2003, the Prison University Project was formed (fiscally sponsored by the Tides Center) to provide material, administrative, and financial support to the College Program at San Quentin. In 2006, PUP incorporated as an independent non-profit organization.
Prison University Project Today
The Prison University Project runs a College Preparatory Program and an Associate of Arts Degree Program at San Quentin. PUP is also engaged in an array of artistic and cultural projects that document the intellectual and creative work of students, facilitate their civic engagement in the public sphere, and humanize the image of incarcerated people generally in the public imagination.