The U.S. lacks an effective approach to providing education—particularly STEM education—in prisons. It is possible to make STEM career and college study programs common, accessible, and rigorous in prisons and reentry programs. Doing so could support rehabilitation, enable incarcerated people to realize their potential—including career goals—and address critical STEM workforce shortages. Yet few STEM education efforts target prisons.

EDC, From Prison Cells to PhDs, and other partners have launched STEM Opportunities in Prison Settings (STEM-OPS). Together, they are developing a national network to expand the number of culturally responsive STEM higher education programs and opportunities for people who are currently or recently incarcerated. They also are conducting a study that will provide new insights into the school-to-prison pipeline and the lack of STEM education in carceral settings.

Key Activities

The STEM-OPS team activities include the following:

  • Develop a national infrastructure of partners that will promote STEM programs in prisons and STEM career pathways for people who were formerly incarcerated
  • Create STEM education programs, tools, and learning experiences for the prison education community and the public
  • Identify barriers and supportive factors for establishing a strong STEM education system in prisons
  • Provide STEM career internships and offering STEM and broader career readiness workshops to people who were formerly incarcerated
  • Initiate STEM mentoring, including peer mentorship, faculty mentoring, and across-network mentoring
  • Host an annual convening focused on STEM education in prisons


STEM-OPS will result in the following:

  • STEM-related internships for 100 new undergraduate students
  • New science lab courses in four existing prison education programs, enrolling up to 165 students
  • Support provided to over 800 students through peer mentoring, faculty mentoring, and across-network mentoring
  • Career-readiness workshops provided to 600 students to support their transition from prison to the STEM workforce
  • Development of resources and tools for the field, including a website to connect people who have been incarcerated with STEM job opportunities and supports

Learn More

EDC Staff
National Science Foundation

From Prison Cells to PhDs, Prison Teaching Initiative at Princeton University, Operation Restoration, The Initiative for Race Research and Justice at Peabody College–Vanderbilt University