Wesleyan has received a $300,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to support our Center for Prison Education. This is an important infusion of support to a program that has made a powerful, positive difference in the lives of incarcerated people and the faculty and students on campus who work with them. As a recent Connection story emphasized, “the grant will not only help fund the classes taught at the Cheshire and York Correctional Institutions, but also support CPE’s re-entry services, which assist students who complete their sentences in continuing their college education post-release.”
The Connection story goes on to note that “CPE’s mission is informed by research that shows the rate of return to prison – recidivism – is reduced by education. Studies have found that participation in postsecondary education while incarcerated can reduce rates of recidivism by more than 40 percent. Further, CPE believes that an investment in individuals is also in the communities and families to which the prisoners belong.”
I remember well when Russell Perkins ’09 came to my office to discuss his ideas for teaching college classes at a nearby prison. I have to admit that I was skeptical that the program could be sustained, and whether our efforts would have the kind of impact that our students hoped it would. Over the years, I have been impressed by the seriousness and dedication of the staff and students who ensure that our classes meet real learning objectives, and by the faculty who pour heart, soul and intellect into their work with those who are incarcerated. Last year I lectured at the Cheshire prison about liberal education, and I had the clear sense that these were students eager to get the most out of our undergraduate classes.
Recently one of our Wesleyan students at Cheshire wrote powerfully about his experience of working in the program. You can read his essay here.
I am so grateful to the Ford Foundation for recognizing and supporting the great work of the CPE!