College Behind Bars

230 Central Street

Auburndale, MA 02466


Mission Statement:  Partakers advances the education of women and men in prison and bridges the divide that separates those inside and outside of prison. Through its College Behind Bars mentoring program, people in prison enhance skills critical to completing a college degree, and build trusting personal relationships. Both activities significantly increase prisoners’ chances for success when returning to the community.

Program Description:

College Behind Bars (CBB) defines Partakers, Inc. It is the umbrella program that serves people in prison in five Massachusetts state prisons through education and mentoring while they are incarcerated. There are three major CBB programs to assist people in prison in pursuing a secondary education through the Boston University Prison Education Program. (BUPEP), or to assist them with Distant Learning correspondence courses.

College Behind Bars is Partakers’ primary program and provides mentoring by volunteers from different faith communities and secular groups to people in prison who are accepted into BUPEP at MCI Norfolk, MCI Framingham, and South Middlesex Correctional Center.

College Behind Bars Correspondence Course Program provides mentoring by CBB volunteers to people in prison with less time remaining in their sentences. The goal is to build self-confidence and provide motivation to continue their education after they are released. Correspondence courses often require that exams be proctored, and we are grateful that the MA Department of Corrections (DOC) has approved certified Partakers Board members who can proctor these exams.

College Behind Bars Seminarian Program provides mentoring by seminarians in the greater Boston Area: Andover Newton Theology School, Hebrew College, Harvard Divinity School, Boston University School of Theology, and Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. Two other university-based mentoring programs arose from this commitment: Boston College School of Law and Harvard Interfaith Prison Education (HIPE).

In College Behind Bars Programs, each student is paired with a team of 4 – 6 mentors who visit in twos and correspond regularly. Expectations for the student-mentor relationship are clearly defined in a covenant that is signed by the student and each mentor on the team.

Because the mentoring relationship continues throughout the student’s education, this is a long term commitment.

By having 4-6 members in one mentoring team, we find this long term relationship becomes mutually supportive and does not become onerous.


Partakers’ programs serve as a model for the importance of education as a deterrent to criminal behavior and, and for women and men who have been incarcerated, as a deterrent to repeated criminal behavior.  The relationship between people in prison who enroll in CBB programs, and reduced recidivism, is unparalleled.

The “genius” of Partakers’ mentoring program is that it really does bridge the divide between those inside and outside the walls. The transformation is not one sided.

Not only does Partakers offer people in prison the chance to accomplish academic pursuits that will ultimately give them a far better chance to succeed after release, Partakers’ mentors also provide friendship and a kind of emotional support that is typically absent in their lives.