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Gov. Malloy: 18 Students from Cheshire Correctional Institution Earn Associate Degrees to Prepare Them for Future Careers

Today Marks Inaugural Graduation Ceremony Under Partnership Between Wesleyan University and Middlesex Community College

(CHESHIRE, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy delivered the keynote address today at the inaugural graduation ceremony for the Wesleyan University Center for Prison Education (CPE), 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.

“Wesleyan is immensely proud of the work being done in this program,” Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth said. “The CPE students’ ability to translate their desire to learn into empowering academic achievement testifies to the vitality of high-quality college-in-prison programming.”

“MxCC is proud to be part of Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education,” MxCC Interim Campus CEO and Dean of Academic Affairs Steven Minkler said. “Our partnership is one of only a handful of such programs in the United States offered jointly by a private liberal arts university and a state-supported community college. Faculty who teach in the program say it is transformative for them, as well as for the students they work with. We are beginning to see some of these same students on campus after being released, and we stand ready to help them with a successful transition into the community.”

“Offenders who participate in correctional education programs have a significantly lower chance of recidivating, and are more likely to get a job upon release than those who do not,” Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple said. “It is not just the graduates who are benefiting from their education – their families, their friends, and their communities will benefit as well.”

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. Students who have been released have continued to pursue higher education at both two and four-year colleges and have obtained gainful employment. By fostering innovative and collaborative learning, the center offers a dynamic approach to reduce recidivism rates and democratize access to educational opportunity.

Currently, 47 men are enrolled in the program at Cheshire and 28 women are enrolled at York.

CPE is funded by a combination of foundation grants, including a major grant from the Mellon Foundation, individual donations, and federal funding through the Second Chance Pell Experiment.

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