Studying in Prison
The University of Milan is committed to ensuring incarcerated and jailed persons have the right to study at a university, and more generally, to improve their quality of life. With cultural programmes, and activities that cultivate an interest in science, made possible through an Agreement signed with the Regional Procurement Office for the Department of Corrections (“PRAP”), first in December 2015, and then renewed in 2018 and 2021, this pledge has become a reality.
The persons detained at correctional centres in the region wishing to undertake a course of university studies can now:
- enrol in one of the accessible courses with subsidised tuition rates
- attend workshops and educational seminars onsite at the correctional facilities
- take advantage of tutor services to help them in their studies
- access the campus’ library network with special borrowing privileges
- sit for exams for academic credit and to earn a degree within the correctional facility, should they be unable to secure a day pass.
The University of Milan has built a network of tutors focussed on supporting incarcerated persons, and each year it offers workshops and educational programmes, bringing together incarcerated students and students from the community.
The network of tutors, which spans across different academic fields, has in recent years grown considerably both in quantitative and qualitative terms, becoming an important benchmark also at a national level. Intense hands-on activity has resulted in remarkable expertise, which is unique on the Italian scene.
To enhance these skills, a group of senior tutors organized for the 2021/2022 academic year a cycle of training sessions entitled "Oltre i limiti: formare e formarsi in carcere" (beyond limits: training and being trained in prison). The project aims to collect, systematize and transfer the knowledge acquired in recent years, through a series of lectures on criminal execution issues: from the function of punishment to the system of protection of rights, from the different roles of prison operators to the value of education in prison. The meetings are intended primarily for tutors and aspiring tutors, but are open to all. The full programme is available here.
In collaboration with the Milan Bollate Prison, the University of Milan is part of an international community of practice. With the support of the Open Society University Network (OSUN) and the Incarceration Nations Network (INN) it promotes university education in correctional facilities.
Thanks to funding from the Consortium Capacity Building Grant for University-Prison Partnerships Outside the U.S. of the BPI Consortium, in 2022 a free tutoring project was started by a group of incarcerated university students addressed to high school and university students who require support in humanistic or scientific studies.
The voluntary tutors are Article 21 detainees who work on the UniMi campus in collaboration with non-incarcerated students. They are successful university students who have received special teacher training, but most importantly, they are part of a social and cultural initiative developed to concretely affirm the right to an education in the University of Milan’s “Prison Project”, part of the Convention with the Regional Superintendency of the Correctional Facility Administration. The helping relationship is aimed at personal growth and empathetic engagement: values of which our tutors are special witnesses and agents.
In six years, the prisoner students of the University of Milan have gone from 5 to 130. They are mainly detained in six correctional facilities: Opera, Bollate (male and female), Milan - San Vittore, Monza, Pavia - Torre del Gallo, Vigevano. There are 111 students enrolled on Bachelor's degree programmes, and 19 on Master's or single-cycle degree programmes.
A total of 34 degree programmes are involved in the project, across all 10 faculties.
About 20% of students are foreigners, 17% are on High Security programmes, and around 8% on ATD programmes. Five are under the hard prison regime ("41bis").
In 2021 alone, prisoner students took a total of 180 exams.
In the last academic year, approximately 80 prisoner students took educational activities as part of this project.