“I, like everyone else, have the prerogative to define my ‘I am.'”
Last April, we posted a letter from Andre Pierce, an incarcerated student enrolled at the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education (CPE). The responses to that post were overwhelmingly positive, but there were some comments that questioned Andre calling himself a Wesleyan student. Last year’s CPE fellow printed all of those comments and brought them to Andre in prison. Here is his response to them:
My name is Andre Pierce, and I am an African-American prisoner at Cheshire Correctional Institution. I’ve been enrolled in the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education (CPE) for five years. The CPE offers credit-bearing courses, taught by Wesleyan professors, inside prison walls. The CPE’s student population has expanded from 18 to 36 incarcerated students over the past five years. CPE has been rewarding to me not merely in an academic sense, but also in a personal sense. It has and continues to expand my worldview. It sharpens my critical thinking skills like a blade. It improves my communication skills to the level where I can seriously engage with Wesleyan professors about their academic interests. The CPE has been so life altering for me that I felt the need to share this experience with you, the Wesleyan student body, in the spring of 2013, in an essay titled Wesleyan Aids a Prisoner in Rehabilitation that was published on Wesleying.