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Prison education program prepares students for Connecticut jobs

Posted on August 30, 2018

A new prison education program is preparing men for Connecticut jobs.

The Wesleyan University Center for Prison Education (CPE) is a program that allows students to enroll in a variety of courses and earn an associate degree from Middlesex Community College (MxCC). The ceremony, held at Cheshire Correctional Institution, saw the conferral of degrees to 18 inmates who are currently housed at the prison.

“This is an opportunity incarcerated people in many other states have not had, and it will be beneficial not just to those within the criminal justice system, but to the state at large,” Governor Malloy said. “Many of these inmates will someday leave the confines of prison, and they will now have additional tools to help them succeed. Connecticut has led the way on cutting-edge criminal justice policies, and this partnership between the Department of Correction, Wesleyan University, and Middlesex Community College furthers Connecticut’s role as a leader in smart, effective reforms.”

Since 2009, CPE has offered accredited Wesleyan courses to students at Cheshire Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison for men. Wesleyan faculty teach courses ranging from English to biology to philosophy, which have the same rigor and expectations as courses on Wesleyan’s Middletown campus. About 50 Wesleyan students volunteer in the program each semester, working in study halls at the prison or on campus filling research requests and serving as project assistants. The program was expanded to serve inmates at York Correctional Institution in spring 2013.

In 2016, Wesleyan partnered with MxCC to allow students who are participating in the program to take courses rostered at either institution and ultimately earn an associate degree from MxCC.

Students are admitted to the CPE program through a competitive process, and typically enroll in two classes per semester and attend corresponding study halls. Students receive individualized attention and academic support from the faculty, staff and volunteers who work with the program. In addition to core academic offerings, the center provides supplemental programming, such as skill-building workshops, non-credit bearing remedial classes, discussion groups, and lectures by visiting professors. The center has also helped students transition to life outside the prison.

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