The People's Education Initiative (formerly the Prison Education Initiative) was founded in 2004 by friends and colleagues with shared concern for the declining educational resources in prisons and jails. The group identified a lack of opportunities for incarcerated women to work in academic settings in New York City's jails. PEI facilitates continuous 8-week units of evening classes through the Rose M Singer Center on Rikers Island in Queens, NY. Past course offerings include:
Our teachers come from diverse professional backgrounds with one common mission: to empower detained women to achieve their academic and personal goals. Past teachers have represented the fields of sociology, social work, law, non-profit, accounting, history, literature, journalism, arts, architecture, design, mathematics and more.
PEI's unique pedagogical approach provides its students with academic experiences and opportunities that are rarely offered in locked facilities and it encourages them to re-imagine their identities as learners, knowers, and participants in society. By employing techniques that eschew traditional assumptions, PEI has created a unique democratic educational space. We have introduced curricula based on creativity, shared leadership, and students' own knowledge. Our teachers are committed to questioning traditional notions of success and facilitating a pedagogy that addresses the perspectives of our students rather than conforming to the white, middle class, heterosexual male mores that often dominate schooling. We involve our students in conceiving curricula and we build into our pedagogy opportunities for students to be involved in the teaching process. Although we know that our classes could not possibly be an antidote to the confinement and demeaning conditions that our students endure, we have attempted to create a space of refuge and openness in the midst of captivity, one in which our students can critique long-accepted truths, in which they can express themselves and push their own educational boundaries without fear of recrimination or ridicule.
We challenge each other to reach new levels of critical discourse and mutual respect in the classroom. Continually we arrive at answers to the questions: what is education? and how can it improve lives?
Interested in becoming a teacher? We're glad you are here. We require the following commitment from new teachers:
--minimum of one year of continuous teaching, about 10 hrs per week including prep and travel to Rikers for one 2 hr class each week
--attendance at monthly meetings to reflect on challenges and share results
PEI is flexible with people's schedules and we can work around scheduled changes as needed.
Please email TEACH@NYPEI.ORG for more information on the interview process and level of commitment. Thank you for your interest.
Are you a former student of PEI at Rosie's? Thank you for reaching out. The following links address some of the questions students have posed in class. If you don't find what you are looking for, please submit a question below.
NOTE: You can easily view many of the resources below on a single Google Map:
EDUCATIONBorough of Manhattan Community College
EMPLOYMENTBronx Community College - CUNY
GENERAL OR RE-ENTRYAlternatives to Incarceration
Can I use PEI as a reference as I seek jobs and education?
PEI is committed to supporting students at Rikers and beyond. Please feel free to use the form below to contact us. If you are requesting letters of reference for employment or higher education, please include the name of the teacher you worked with or the class that you participated in.
If you have questions which are not answered by the preceeding links, please specify below what your needs are and how we may be able to help. We will do our best to connect you with people and organizations that can serve your needs. PEI is committed to supporting students at Rikers and beyond. We would be happy to write letters of reference for employment and as you pursue higher education. Please write to us at INFO@NYPEI.ORG and include the teacher whose reference you seek as the subject line.
If your questions are not answered by the preceeding links, please contact us directly using the form below. We will do our best to connect you with people and organizations that can serve your interests or needs.
As a collective of instructors, we know PEI can be much more effective at supporting students when we partner with other like-minded organizations to form a community. The following list of organizations either help us do our job, or do great work in related areas.
The US incarcerates a larger portion of our population than ANY other country.
We have 25% of the world's prison population.
2.4 million Americans are incarcerated in jail or prison.
Over 7 million Americans are under correctional supervision.
1 in every 50 Adults (over 18) is incarcerated in the US.
1 in every 106 White Males (over 18) is incarcerated.
1 in every 36 Hispanic Males (over 18) is incarcerated.
1 in every 15 Black Males (over 18) is incarcerated.
sources: ACLU, sentencingproject.org
The island is 415 acres, about half the size of Central Park.
There are 10 jails on Rikers Island.
On an average day there are over 13,000 inmates
(that's more than the total incarcerated population of most states)
Almost 100,000 people are admitted to Rikers each year.
51% of incarcerated people in New York are Black.
17.5% of the population of New York is Black.
sources: nyc.gov, DOCCS
The number of incarcerated women in the US rose 654% from 1980 to 2001.
2/3rds of incarcerated women are serving time for non-violent offenses.
Black women are three times as likely to be incarcerated than white women.
85-90% of incarcerated women have a history of domestic and sexual abuse.
80% of incarcerated women suffer from addiction and substance abuse.
Women get fewer educational and vocational opportunities than men.
sources: ACLU; PCF
Being inclusive to contributors from diverse points of view is central to the mission of PEI. We honor all input and welcome all forms of contribution in order to best serve our students at Rikers and beyond. The following are a few ways to contribute to PEI:
Our teachers are always in need of classroom materials. We are continually seeking letter sized lined and blank paper, drawing paper and newsprint, charcoal sticks, colored paper, pencils and markers, golf pencils, rubber erasers, glue sticks, and magazines. In addition, we run an independent library at the Rose M Singer Center and appreciate new or gently used books. Please write INFO@NYPEI.ORG to arrange a pick up. Thank you.
Cash donations can be made via our Paypal account.
Learn about incarceration in America and initiate solutions-based discourse with your friends and family.