Hudson Link for Higher Education

By Christopher Zoukis

Hudson Link is a prison-education program that was begun as the result of a direct request from prisoners incarcerated in New York’s Sing Sing who lamented the loss of government-funded educational initiatives and reached out to religious as well as academic volunteers associated with the prison.  After the government ended Pell and Tap grants for prisoners, many New Yorkers began to feel uneasy about the lack of education making it into prisons where it seems so desperately needed to transform lives and break the poverty cycle.  Founded in 1998, Hudson Link now enrolls roughly 250 inmates annually and has partners with other correctional facilities.  Photo courtesy www.hudsonlink.org

Hudson Link’s Program Range

While the initiative began with Sing Sing, Hudson Link now has programs at Sing Sing as well as other correctional facilities.  Currently Hudson Link offers Associates Degree-track coursework (at Taconic Correctional Facility) and A.A. and B.S. degrees in Behavioral Science at Sing Sing.  Other program offerings include college preparatory training, A.A. Degree coursework in Liberal Arts, and a B.S. Degree in Organizational Management (available at Fishkill Correctional Facility. 

The programs are run with the help of New York colleges and universities.  The Sing Sing Behavioral Science Degrees, for example, are supported by Mercy College which is known for its challenging program.  Mercy began working with Hudson Link back in 2002 and is now renowned throughout the state and has grown to become one of the largest programs within the state of New York.  The Liberal Arts coursework offered by SUNY Sullivan Community College is one of the newest programs offered by Hudson Link and is offered at the Sullivan Correctional Facility. 

Providing a Framework for Success

The founders of Hudson Link realized early on that academic training was not enough to truly help inmates transform their lives.  Therefore, part of Hudson Links’ offerings includes programming for newly released individuals who require assistance during the re-entry period.  Hudson Link offers training and workshops for the newly released as well as helpful sessions for family and the community.  Hudson Link boasts a program called the Coming Home initiative that imparts basic life skills and value assessments to give newly released individuals the positive encouragement they need to change their past behaviors and find a new path.

Hudson Link also offers their program known as the Job Readiness initiative that builds on inmates’ educational achievements.  By imparting job-based skills as well as skills needed to compete for jobs, Hudson Link helps those released from prison obtain the additional skills they need to interview and produce resumes.  Hudson Link also promotes mentoring and professional development.

Promoting Meaningful Lives

Hudson Link is committed to linking prisons with colleges so that inmates have access to education.  Like many other prison-based initiatives, Hudson Link believes that education is the key needed to reduce recidivism but also to help people lead more meaningful and positively productive lives.  They also believe in a multi-faceted approach to education for inmates.  The academic component is merely part of the picture for participants.  Hudson Link understands that there is other vital support needed among prisoners once they are released.  By helping newly released prisoners make the transition from prison to their respective communities, they help ensure that these newly released live up to their potential and make the most of their education opportunities. 

Like many programs that deliver education to prisoners, Hudson Link depends upon its partners like regional colleges and donations from New Yorkers to continue to make a difference for inmates and communities around the state.  Hudson Link also requires volunteers who help with various aspects of the programming as well as the support needed to keep the programs running smoothly.  Their work has become a model for many other programs inside and outside of the state.