APAEP Founder and Director
The Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project (APAEP) at Auburn University is a community of educators, artists, and students dedicated to bringing quality educational opportunities to people incarcerated in Alabama. APAEP believes that education provides fertile ground for all people to express their creative voice and vision, explore inherent curiosities, and cultivate a lifelong relationship with learning.
The first phase of what is now APAEP was called the Alabama Prison Arts Initiative, which was first funded by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2003. The Center for the Arts & Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University served as the fiscal agent for the small initiative.
In 2004, APAEP took its current name when it became a full-time program of Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities with an administrative position dedicated to the growth of the program. The goals of APAEP have always been to place rich creative and intellectual opportunities in Alabama’s prisons, a remarkably underserved population.
APAEP grew from one poet teaching in one prison, to a pool of more than 100 writers, artists, scholars, and visiting writers teaching in twelve correctional facilities in Alabama. Course offerings have grown from poetry to a wide variety of courses in the arts and humanities: The Tall Tale, Southern Literature, American Women’s Poetry, War and Literature, Social History of Alabama, Innovative Drawing, Multi-media Art, Drawing and Advanced Drawing, among many others. With each new teacher, our curriculum expands.
On January 1, 2008, APAEP moved to the Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts. The move to this highly regarded academic department served to strengthen APAEP in multiple capacities. Graduate students became more involved in research on the impacts of APAEP programming. After two years in the Psychology Department, APAEP moved to the College of Liberal Arts, and then into the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, in the College of Human Science.
APAEP and the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Alabama have formed a strong partnership, which allows APAEP to increase the number of classes offered each semester, in addition to providing the rewarding opportunity for graduate students and faculty to teach in the prisons. The UA MFA program has established Prison Arts Fellowships to support graduate students each semester to teach.
In the spring of 2012, APAEP offered its first programming in hard sciences and mathematics through partnering with the College of Agriculture and the College of Science and Math. In 2013, the first engineering classes were offered. In the fall of 2013, the first beginning Algebra class. This program grows as we find opportunities to build partnerships at the University-level, to offer programming such as the relationship classes, as well as building the SPARKs science and math lecture series.
In January 2017, APAEP began new programming through the U.S. Department of Education Experimental Sites program called Second Chance Pell Initiative. This minimum 3-year project grants Pell funds to a select group of universities and colleges nationwide as an effort to understand impact and strong strategies for higher education within prisons. Auburn University/APAEP was chosen as one of 67 sites nationally. Pell funding was taken away from incarcerated people in 1994, effectively destroying most higher educational programming in prisons around the country.
We offer a Bachelor of Science degree, combining Business and Human Development and Family Studies. The reasons for these two focal areas are pragmatically driven. We want a degree that would serve the largest number of students in the broadest potential use for the degree. We want students to have options and a strong foundation, no matter where they return or what they want to do. We believe this degree will help them through academic study into human development and behavior and business because this foundation could help someone start their own small business. This would take away the hurdle that so many formerly incarcerated face with “checking the box.” It also is a strong skill set to present to a potential employer, and this can be in small-town Alabama, in Birmingham, or elsewhere.
APAEP facilitates year-round educational opportunities to people living in Alabama’s correctional facilities. We offer high quality educational programming to men and women who are starved for knowledge and desperate for the chance to develop intellectually and creatively. Our students’ level of enthusiasm, excitement, and passion for the learning process is inspiring. Our programs include:
APAEP pre-college classes are based on introductory college-level courses and generally run for 14 weeks with 15-20 students per class. There are no educational requirements set by APAEP -- only the desire to learn. Our courses range from humanities and arts to science and mathematics.
Classes are taught by faculty members and graduate students from Auburn University, the University of Alabama, and other college and universities around the state. Instructors work with APAEP to develop high-quality classes that will engage students.
Since 2012, APAEP has partnered with the College of Science and Math and College of Agriculture at Auburn University to produce a spring lecture series for our students. The series features a lecture and discussion on a different topic and given by a different faculty member or graduate student every week. Topics range from nanotechnology and epidemiology to marine biology and insect identification.
In 2016, Auburn University was chosen as one of 67 sites for the Second Chance Pell Initiative launched through the U.S. Department of Education during President Obama’s administration. This initiative allows Auburn University and APAEP to offer college-level classes to students as they work towards a Bachelor of Science degree that combines a focus in Business and Human Development and Family Studies.
The federal Pell grants awarded to our students will fund 1/3 of their tuition expenses. The remainder of the tuition is funded through grant sponsorship and philanthropic gifts. Please consider making a donation to Auburn University’s Second Chance Pell Pilot Program today.
Would you like to join our team of dedicated teachers, tutors, and volunteers? Our programs run year round, and we are always looking for passionate and dedicated people to work with us as teachers, tutors, and volunteers. We also partner with individuals and organizations who are interested in highlighting the work our students are doing.
Teach with Us
APAEP teachers are committed to the idea that all people deserve access to arts and education, and that all lives hold value. Teachers range from faculty, instructors, and graduate students from multiple universities in Alabama to individual artists, scholars, and writers. Our program not only helps sustain students but also individuals who want to stay in Alabama and be involved in their craft (which is hard to do when artists and writers are consistently asked to practice their trade as volunteers). Teachers and former teachers have exhibited art nationally and internationally, they have published multiple books and regularly publish online. They are an inspiring lot of visionary teachers and are absolutely the backbone of this program.
We look for the following qualities in our teachers:
Fill out an APAEP Teacher Application and mail to email@example.com with a PDF of your CV and we will be in touch with you soon.
APAEP is building a pool of tutors to support the academic achievement of our degree-seeking students. Tutoring sessions take place once a week, off campus, and tutors receive training prior to beginning work. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Volunteers play an essential role in supporting the work we do at the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project in a variety of areas. Volunteers aid our staff in publicity, special projects, library curation, data entry, committee participation, and special projects, among other things.
We welcome all volunteers who are willing to contribute their time, energy, and expertise. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, please send an email to email@example.com or call (334) 844-8946. We look forward to hearing from you.
Partner with APAEP
By partnering with multiple on and off campus departments, universities, state offices and non-profit organizations, APAEP builds dynamic teaching and learning opportunities for Auburn University students and faculty. This distinctive outreach opportunity builds a path for students and faculty at Auburn, as well as individuals throughout the state of Alabama, to engage with an underserved portion of Alabama’s population. These partnerships also help to develop engaged scholarship and research projects.
APAEP, a program in CADC, partners with the Colleges of Science and Math, Agriculture, Engineering, Liberal Arts and Education. We also work closely with Auburn University’s Office of Outreach.
Alabama Colleges and Universities
APAEP has a strong partnership with the University of Alabama’s MFA Creative Writing Program to offer Prison Arts Fellowships to UA graduate students. Faculty and Graduate Students from Auburn University at Montgomery and University of Alabama at Birmingham have also worked with APAEP.
Alabama Department of Corrections
APAEP works closely with the officers, wardens, and commissioners of the Alabama Department of Corrections. Support from the staff of the ADOC is critical to the success of our program.
What kinds of programs does APAEP offer?
We offer pre-college classes, college-level classes, and visual arts programs. We also distribute books to Alabama prison libraries through our Books Behind Bars program.
Who teaches the classes? Are they volunteers?
Courses are taught by faculty members and graduate students from Auburn University, the University of Alabama, and other Alabama colleges and universities. Our visual arts program instructors also include professional artists. All instructors are compensated for their work and are not volunteers.
What kind of background and experience do your teachers have?
Our teachers are working towards or have attained an advanced degree in their field. We also work with professionals that have extensive teaching experience.
Tutors are not required to have an advanced degree, but should be proficient in the subject they are tutoring.
Does APAEP give classes to its students over the Internet or by video?
No, all of our classes are run on-site and in-person. Alabama does not allow its prisoners to have access to the Internet or to take remote classes.
What kinds of classes do you offer?
APAEP's first classes included poetry, creative writing, and visual arts and has expanded to include humanities (history, philosophy), science (chemistry, biology, physics), engineering, music, design, and more! We welcome teachers from all disciplines. For some examples of previous classes, check out our Pre-College Courses program page.
Classes in the degree program have a more strict curriculum, as the coursework is leading to a B.S. with a focus on Business and Human Development and Family Studies.
Do I choose which class I teach? Can I design my own class?
Our pre-college classes offer teachers the opportunity to work with APAEP staff to develop high quality syllabus and course of your design that will fit the needs of our students. These classes typically follow a college freshman or sophomore-level introductory course with a lecture/discussion format, but we are open to discuss proposals about unconventional teaching programs.
Our degree program has a set curriculum and APAEP students are held to identical standards as every other Auburn University students. As such, the classes they take are the same courses offered on the main AU campus.
Where will I teach?
APAEP conducts classes at correctional facilities around the state. We try to place our teachers in locations that are convenient to their work and home. Most correctional facilities in Alabama are in remote locations and a teacher's commute usually requires a 45-60 minute long drive.
What kind of training will I get?
Everyone who works in a correctional facility with APAEP must participate in a mandatory one-day, 8-hour training session held on the Auburn University campus at the beginning of every semester. Included in this training is an hour of special training required by the ADOC and the federal government for all volunteers working inside of a state prison.
In addition to training, an APAEP staff member will accompany the teacher to at least the first 2-3 class sessions. ADOC officers are always present in APAEP classrooms. Tutors and volunteers are never in a facility without an APAEP staff member.
What is the time commitment?
Typically, classes are taught once a week for 14 weeks and are 2-2.5 hours long, which doesn’t include travel time to the facility.
Who takes your classes?
We have no educational prerequisite to take pre-college classes, and they are open to anyone with a desire to learn, and has approval by the Alabama Department of Corrections to participate.
Students in our degree program have gone through a rigorous application process to be in the program. In addition to the educational requirements set forth by AU and the behavioral requirements required by the ADOC, these students also meet standards to receive federal Pell Grants.
How many students will be in my class?
Class size ranges from 10-20.
Are students graded?
We do not give grades to students in our pre-college classes. Students can earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from Auburn University if they meet the certain participation requirements.
Students in the degree program earn a grade, which contributes to their overall GPA, just like they would if they were taking the class on campus.