Offering a High Caliber Liberal Arts Education Inside Prison Walls
In 2016, Middlesex Community College launched an innovative public-private partnership with Weselyan University’s Center for Prison Education (CPE), allowing students in Connecticut’s prisons to take a mix of courses rostered at either institution and earn an Associate degree in recognition of their work. Since then, six students have been awarded Associate of Science degrees from MxCC, the first members of the program to earn degrees while incarcerated, and trailblazers for the expanded college in prison landscape that the CPE stands for.
Through the Center, prisoners at the Cheshire Correctional Institution (CI) and York CI, a men’s maximum security prison and Connecticut’s only women’s state prison, are invited to apply to take accredited Wesleyan and MxCC courses. The Center’s students are admitted through a rigorous admissions process, including multiple essays and faculty interviews. Over 90 women applied join the inaugural class at York, while over 300 men have applied for admission to the Center’s Cheshire campus since 2009.
The Center currently offers six courses each semester at Cheshire CI and three per semester at York CI. Classes are taught by MxCC and Wesleyan faculty who when bringing their courses from the main-campus change neither the course content nor their expectations of students. Over the past eight academic years, the Center has offered 80 classes in subjects ranging from sociology to biology, political theory to advanced calculus.
Each student enrolls in two classes per semester and attends corresponding study halls. Students receive individualized attention and academic support from the faculty, staff and volunteers who work with the program. Every study hall is staffed by tutors and teaching assistants who are available to assist students in mastering new material, edit papers and to provide any other necessary support. In addition to the core academic offerings, the Center provides supplemental programming including 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 of prison; they have continued to pursue higher education at both two and four-year colleges, and obtain gainful employment.
By fostering innovative and collaborative learning, the Center offers a dynamic approach to reduce recidivism rates and democratize access to educational opportunity. The Center is a member of the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison.
The Center for Prison Education is a privately funded initiative that relies on the generosity of its supporters. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today.
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