School of Liberal Arts

Jail Education Project

Jail Education Project

The Jail Education Project at Merrimack College brings higher education to people incarcerated in our local county jails. 

Guided by Merrimack’s Augustinian tradition, the Jail Education Project seeks to build community connections while addressing inequities in higher education.

What We Do

The Jail Education Project provides a number of teaching and learning opportunities to incarcerated students, matriculated students and faculty, including:

College Coursework 

At the Essex County Correctional Facility and the Middlesex House of Correction, Merrimack College faculty teach four-credit introductory and general education courses that can be easily transferred to a degree program. These courses are the same as those taught on campus but are on a condensed, eight-week schedule to accommodate high turnover and to allow students to complete as many classes as possible.

Teaching Assistantships

Merrimack College students from all majors have the opportunity to work as teaching assistants (TAs) for faculty teaching at the jails. TA OPPORTUNITIES

The Bridge Program 

In the summer of 2021, we are offering a new program that aims to bridge the gap between education during incarceration and the pursuit of a degree. The BrIDGE PROGRAM INFO

“Helping these men every step of the way throughout this course and seeing how much it helped them grow as human beings, I finally understood that education is a basic human right that everyone deserves.”

― Jordan Wrzesien ’22, English
Teaching Assistant, ENG 2150: Intro to Creative Writing

Jails: Serving Our Local Community

While most higher education in prison programs occur in state prisons, where people serve longer sentences and can finish more coursework, the Jail Education Project has developed an educational model that addresses the unique challenges of short-term incarceration in county jails. 

Why Jails?
  • Jails are the gateway to the criminal justice system. Jails touch many more lives than prisons. More than 12 million people rotate through jails which is 19 times more people than the population that rotates through prisons. 
  • Jails are local. Many people are released to nearby communities, making Merrimack College well-positioned to offer reentry support and partner with local networks.

History and Timeline

Fall 2017: The Merrimack College Jail Education Project started as a small endeavor, offering one course per semester in criminology or creative writing at Essex County Correctional Facility in Middleton, Massachusetts.

Fall 2019: The Jail Education Project expanded to the Middlesex House of Correction in Billerica, Massachusetts.

Academic Year 2019-2020: The Project was slated to offer twelve courses in multiple disciplines. Due to COVID-19, we offered five courses. 

Academic Year 2020-2021: We are offering four hybrid courses.

Summer 2021: We are piloting The Bridge Program for formerly incarcerated students.


Contact Us

Merrimack College Jail Education Project
315 Turnpike Street - Austin Hall 203A
North Andover, MA 01845
jail-education@merrimack.edu