About Us

The USC Dornsife Prison Education Project (PEP) creates the opportunity for USC and incarcerated students to learn from each other in a rigorous and collaborative learning environment across a variety of academic disciplines. Through PEP, USC students and faculty design, teach and participate in classes with people incarcerated in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation system.
USC student and faculty members participate in the program every semester.
in-custody students engaged every semester through classes, contests, and editorial mentorship.
PEP is the largest prison-based education volunteer program in the United States.
USC is the largest chapter of the overall Prison Education Project with the most volunteer instructors, TAs, and classes.
awarded to systems-impacted scholarship recipients and writing contest winners annually.


The USC Dornsife Prison Education Project (PEP) was founded at the University of Southern California in 2017 in collaboration with Cal Poly Pomona's Prison Education Project. Since its founding, USC PEP has aimed to serve systems-impacted students both on USC's campus and in custody within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. What began as one creative writing class at the California Institution for Men in Chino, CA, has since grown into regular course offerings at multiple correctional and transitional living facilities. PEP offers courses in film, astronomy, speculative fiction, screenwriting, and debate, among others. Through these classes, as well as Writing 320–a USC Writing Program course that co-enrolls USC students and students at the California Institution for Women in the same writing workshop–PEP publishes both in-custody and USC students' writing in print anthologies. In 2020, PEP complemented its course offering by creating the PEP Talks series, which brings together activists, artists, and academics for critical conversations around incarceration for a national audience. In 2021, PEP founded the Readers' Circle, an initiative designed to address the question, “How can students continue to receive feedback on the work once classes end?”. The program links writers who are currently in custody with USC professors and students for a host of writing services including editing, copy-editing, and transcription. Each year, PEP administers national writing contests for systems-impacted writers and awards scholarships to systems-impacted USC students. All of PEP’s efforts aim to directly support the work of underrepresented writers while fostering creative and intellectual exchange between the university and diverse groups within the community. Ultimately, PEP seeks to reinforce the idea that education is a fundamental human right.

PEP seeks to reinforce the idea of education as a fundamental human right and to facilitate connections that transcend walls both literal and figurative.



Faculty Directors

Nik De Dominic (he/him)
Nik De Dominic is the Co-Director of the USC Dornsife Prison Education Project, as well as a faculty member in the Writing Program at USC.
Kate Levin (she/her)
Kate Levin is the Co-Director of the USC Dornsife Prison Education Project and a faculty member in the Writing Program at USC.
Keziah Poole (she/they)
Keziah Poole is an avid lover of dogs, plants and abolitionist politics, Keziah began working with PEP in 2020 as a PhD student in Comparative Literature. In addition to leading an original course in Creative Writing & Identity, she has co-taught introductory PEP classes in College Skills, Autobiography Writing and Film Studies. She continues to work closely with writers at CIW as an Editor for the PEP Autobiography Publishing Project, and is founder and coordinator of the USC PEP Readers' Circle; a peer-editing network connecting writers in custody with USC students and faculty.

Student Directors

Jessica Hatrick (she/they)
Jessica Hatrick is a doctoral candidate in the Annenberg School for Communication, where she researches student activism and education, with a focus on university students doing abolitionist work.
G Bajaj (he/him/his)
G Bajaj is a senior from Chicago majoring in Health and Human Sciences with minors in health related fields.
Julia Lin (she/her)
Julia Lin is a junior at USC from Seattle, Washington. She is pursuing a Bachelor’s in journalism as well as a progressive Master’s degree in digital social media in the Annenberg school. She is focused on audience engagement and digital storytelling with an emphasis on accessibility, inclusivity and empathy. In her free time, Julia loves cloud watching, baking banana bread and reading (she just finished Michelle Zauner’s “Crying in H Mart.”)

Reports and Statements

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