What exactly IS the Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI)?
PTI is a Princeton-university based cooperative of instructors who teach fully accredited associate-degree courses in New Jersey Department of Corrections facilities and at Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution (part of the federal Bureau of Prisons). We also assist Rutgers University’s School of Criminal Justice in helping incarcerated students complete their B.A. degrees. PTI is part of the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons (NJ-STEP) consortium.
What kind of time commitment will I make as a PTI instructor?
Nearly all of our instructors teach classes as part of a team of 2-4 people. Most math/science instructors teach for blocks of 3-4 weeks (2 sessions per week) during a 15-week semester, committing about 15 hours per week during that time. Most humanities and social sciences instructors teach once per week (committing 6-8 hours per week) for the duration of the term. In addition to teaching responsibilities, instructors help develop course syllabi (within the context of accreditation requirements) and grade student assignments.
Where does PTI teach?
PTI instructors teach in several New Jersey Department of Corrections facilities – these facilities change each semester depending on facility needs and instructor availability. We most often teach in the following facilities (in order of distance from Princeton):
Garden State Youth Correctional Facility (Bordentown)
Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility (Bordentown)
Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women (Clinton)
Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility (Annandale)
East Jersey State Prison (Rahway)
Northern State Prison (Newark)
We also teach at Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution at Joint Base MDL.
What subjects does PTI teach?
PTI instructors operate within two divisions – Humanities/Social Sciences and STEM. In recent years, we have taught the following disciplines: composition, math, physics, biology, political science, psychology, literature, philosophy, sociology, languages (Spanish, Italian, Latin, Arabic). Every semester, we teach basic-skills math and English courses to students who need preparation for college-level work.
How do instructors get to and from the facilities?
Most of our instructors carpool or take public transportation to facilities. PTI also subsidizes transportation when instructors with current driver’s licenses utilize the Enterprise Car Share program at Princeton University. Once instructors become Enterprise members through the university, the cost of renting vehicles is directly billed to PTI.
What qualifications do I need to become an instructor?
All instructors must have completed at least five graduate-level courses in a field related to the subject(s) they wish to teach. Anywhere from 85 to 90% of our instructors are graduate students or post-docs, so we especially encourage this group to apply! No prior teaching experience is required.
What must I do to become an instructor?
Potential instructors must submit the following information to the PTI Program Coordinator:
Department of Corrections and/or Bureau of Prisons clearance applications
Copy of a government-issued photo ID (volunteers born outside the U.S., regardless of citizenship or resident status, must provide a copy of their passport or visa photo page)
Copy of appropriate visa documentation (if applicable)
Naturalized citizens must also provide a copy of their naturalization paperwork.
Current curriculum vita
Unofficial graduate transcripts
Once this information is reviewed, the applicant will participate in an informal interview with the appropriate committee chairperson to determine next steps. If the applicant and the chair choose to move forward, the applicant’s information will be submitted to our accrediting agencies, Raritan Valley Community College for DOC courses and Mercer County Community College for our Fort Dix courses, and DOC/BOP clearance forms will be submitted to the appropriate agencies for approval.
All instructors are also required to participate in PTI-sponsored new faculty training and a DOC or BOP training. These sessions are scheduled as needed.
Can I volunteer if I have a conviction on my record?
Generally, yes. It’s important to list ALL convictions in the appropriate location on the DOC volunteer application, even those that have been expunged, because they will come up during the investigation. Misdemeanor convictions will not prevent you from volunteering. Felony convictions MAY prevent you from entering a facility, depending on the nature of the conviction and the length of time that has elapsed since you were convicted. In this case, you can still help with grading and preparation of materials.