It is possible to make STEM workforce development and college study programs common, accessible, and rigorous in prisons and reentry programs. Doing so could enable justice-involved people to realize their career goals and address critical STEM workforce shortages. Yet few STEM education efforts in the United States aim to engage people who are, or have been, incarcerated.

STEM Opportunities in Prison Settings (STEM-OPS) is a partnership among EDC, Prisons to Professional, Operation Restoration, Vanderbilt University’s Initiative for Race Research and Justice, and Princeton University’s Prison Teaching Initiative. Together, partners are developing a national network to expand the number of culturally responsive, higher education STEM programs and workforce opportunities for people who are currently or were recently impacted by the judicial system.

Key Activities

STEM-OPS is engaged in the following activities:

  • Conducting research on the cradle-to-prison pipeline, as well as existing STEM education and career pathways for people who are incarcerated
  • Developing a national infrastructure of partners that will promote and advocate for STEM programs in prisons and STEM career pathways for people who were formerly incarcerated
  • Creating trauma-informed STEM education programs, tools, learning experiences, and other resources (including toolkits, a blog and The sySTEM Impacted podcast) for the prison education community and the public
  • Identifying barriers to, and supportive factors for, establishing a strong STEM education system in prisons
  • Providing STEM career internships and career readiness workshops to people who are justice involved
  • Developing and disseminating counternarratives about justice-involved individuals through collecting and sharing stories, launching and maintaining the Speakers’ Bureau, and pursuing continued opportunities to speak with key stakeholders
  • Hosting an annual convening focused on STEM education in prisons
  • Developing and implementing standards for technology use in prison settings


STEM-OPS intends to change outcomes by achieving the following objectives:

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

Learn More

STEM Opportunities in Prison Settings (STEM-OPS)
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National Science Foundation

Prisons to Professionals (P2P), Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI) at Princeton University, Operation Restoration (OR), Initiative for Race Research and Justice (RRJ) at Vanderbilt University