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, 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 accessible degree programmes for jailed or incarcerated persons are presented each year onsite at the correctional facilities at designated Open Days coordinated by COSP, the University Study and Career Guidance Service.
Thanks to the extraordinary contribution of its students, the University of Milan has built a network of tutors focussed on incentivising, facilitating, and supporting incarcerated persons in the region to enrol in, and to stay on course with, a university degree programme.
At the beginning of the academic year, each newly enrolled student at Bollate, Opera, or San Vittore is assigned a tutor. They meet twice a month, on average.
Tutor activities onsite at the prisons and jails is generally counted by the degree programmes as an educational activity.
The tutor's role
The tutor provides support and assistance in:
- choosing which exams to take, the course of study, and generating a plan of study
- picking up educational materials
- requesting and returning borrowed books (with a written proxy)
- liaising with instructors during exam periods.
Currently, the University of Milan has a total of 58 tutors, divided amongst Opera (43), Bollate (14) and San Vittore (1).
Marina Beraha and Gaia Epicoco
Winners of the 400-hour service contract, curated by COSP, they supervise the tutors who work with students at Opera. The oversight is needed given the volume of students there, and the special circumstances of that institution.
The partnership with Lombardy PRAP has borne fruit for the University. In the 2019-2020 academic year alone, more than 80 incarcerated persons enrolled in 22 three-year degree programmes. These students come from the jails at Opera and Bollate, and the correctional centres of San Vittore and Pavia. This reflects a 100% increase over the prior academic year.
Of the enrolees, 3.5% are women, and approximately 4% are foreigners. The most popular programmes have been: Philosophy (19.8%), Legal Services (12.8%) and Science and Technology of the Restaurant Business (8%).
Outside the PRAP agreement, the University of Milan has been offering since 2017 theatrical workshops at the Cesare Beccaria juvenile detention centre (JDC) in cooperation with Teatro Puntozero. The workshops share a common theme: reflection on contemporaneity through a rereading of Shakespeare's plays.
Over time, a series of shows, actions on stage and public meetings have been written, performed and promoted by our students with youth on restriction/probation, and young actors from Teatro Puntozero.