San Quentin inmate Anthony Anderson holds the essay he wrote, addressing future students in the program’s English classes. “Take pride in getting an education,” he wrote. “You will have something to offer to society. Who knows you may be the next big thing in literature.” Credit: Elisabeth Fall for APM Reports

To get to the 99A college prep English class at California’s San Quentin State Prison, you pass through two security checks, two gates and a very thick, very old metal door that looks medieval. You walk into a courtyard surrounded by guard towers. Inmates in pale blue scrubs with the word “PRISONER” printed on the back in bright yellow are hanging around, playing baseball and chatting.

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Across the yard sits a cluster of portable trailers. These are the education buildings, and they’re where the Prison University Project holds its classes.

This week’s episode of the Educate podcast goes inside San Quentin State Prison to see what higher education looks like behind bars.

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