As part of a collaboration between Yale University and the University of New Haven, seven inmates in Connecticut completed their college degree programs and received their diplomas this month.
The graduates were participants in the Yale Prison Education Initiative and the University of New Haven’s Prison Education Program, respectively. 70 students have taken courses through the program to date for college credit, according to Scripps News.
To run the program effectively, the inmates’ education was aided by more than 130 faculty members, employees, and graduate students.
Celebrating his achievement as the student with the highest GPA, MacDougall-Walker Correctional Facility inmate, Alpha Jalloh, said, “I stand here proudly, but sadly, as the first person among my group of friends to earn a higher degree. This program has enabled us to dream in different ways we never thought possible. It nourishes the soul and pushes us to find our place in this world,” according to a press release.
Inmates at the Manson Youth Institution have been receiving instruction from the Yale Prison Education Institute since May 2018. The program gained ground when the University of New Haven came on board in 2021 and a joint degree-granting program for prisoners was established by the universities. Graduates of the program received an associate’s degree in general studies.
In order to receive his associate degree in general studies from the University of New Haven, Harvin, a recent parolee who intends to practice defense law, also attended the ceremony.
In an interview with AP News, he said, “That name, Yale, means so much to me because I’m from New Haven and to be able to study at Yale and begin studying in prison is unheard of. People even think I’m lying sometimes, so I’ll show them my jail I.D. and my Yale I.D.”
Ned Lamont, the governor of Connecticut, spoke at the graduation ceremony and referred to it as one of the most emotional graduation ceremonies he had ever witnessed.
“I loved hearing the pride you have in yourselves and what this ceremony is all about. I’ve heard that the majority of you plan your own futures. Though you define your futures, you can learn from the past,” he said. The Governor reiterated that he has a strong belief in the program and its purpose.
Roland, who oversees the Yale-UNH partnership, said, “We believe that this is a transformative program, that it has the potential to make a generational impact.” “We believe that we’re transforming not just individual student’s lives, but also the institutions that we work in, both the universities and correctional system,” AP News reported.
The program also allows participants to pursue bachelor’s degrees as well.