The New York Times’ City Room blog published an article about Wesleyan’s College in Prison Program, where Charles Lemert and Beth Richards teach sociology and English. The admission to the program is competitive, but open to all inmates despite their sentences. The article talked to some of the incarcerated students about why they joined the program:
But many of them speak with pure clarity about the reasons they were drawn to school again: idle curiosity, intellectual interest, a longing to be part of the big conversations of the day, and a desire for self-respect.
“It’s rejuvenating,” said Antonio Rivera, 23, who likes to read history and is less than halfway through a 12-year sentence for drug dealing.
Clyde Meikle, 38, of Hartford is serving a 50-year sentence for fatally shooting a man with whom he tussled over a parking spot. Ten years ago, he earned his high school diploma in prison. He likes to set a positive example for what he calls “the younger cats.”
“For me, it was a self-esteem thing,” he said.
The article also mentions on the uncertain future of the program, as people argue whether it is a good use of University funds:
Two students, Russell Perkins and Molly Birnbaum, who had volunteered in prisons as students, revived the idea last year when they were seniors and figured out a way to finance it.
They obtained nearly $300,000 from the Bard Prison Initiative, a program that already pays to offer Bard College courses in a handful of New York prisons. That should fully pay for Wesleyan’s program for two years and provide partial financing for two more years.[…] University administrators say they will raise additional money to finance the program privately so as not to siphon money from Wesleyan’s core mission. That was among the concerns raised by the faculty when it gathered to vote on the proposal last spring.
The vote was first scheduled to be taken on May 6, but it was postponed when a Wesleyan junior, Johanna Justin-Jinich, was murdered that day at the bookstore, turning a tranquil campus into a raucous crime scene. The faculty endorsed the plan two weeks later by a show of hands, with some dissent.
Thanks to Joey from the shoutbox for the tip!
New York Times: College Ivy Sprouts at a Connecticut Prison