Spending time inside a correctional facility as an undergrad led Anna Boyd ’16 CLAS, ’19 JD/MBA to Villanova Law. Her experience as a volunteer literacy and GED tutor in the Villanova Graterford Prison Program (now the Villanova Program at SCI Phoenix) sparked a passion for criminal justice reform.

Once enrolled in the Charles Widger School of Law, Boyd wanted to ensure her classmates had the same opportunity. “How can you be a prosecutor or public defender and never set foot in prison prior to practice?” she says.

With support from the Office of Service Learning and Villanova Law, Boyd and a group of her classmates began leading reading groups for inmates once a week at the State Correctional Institution at Chester, an all-male, medium-security prison outside of Philadelphia. The program is the first of its kind at Villanova Law.

The inmates studied student-selected readings on the criminal justice system, and about 10 to 15 men came each week prepared to participate in active and vigorous dialogue. “These men are incredibly informed,” Boyd says. “Many of them have been incarcerated for a decade or more, and a lot of their legal education comes from advocating for themselves.”

Villanova’s student-run Criminal Law Society has plans for this academic year to continue working with the SCI Chester reading group.

Did You Know?

Established in 1972, the Villanova Program at SCI Phoenix — formerly the Graterford Program — is one of the oldest continuously running degree-granting prison education programs in the US.