Bowie State’s Degree Program For Incarcerated Men Is Changing Lives

Historically Black College and University professors at Bowie State University are making history. The Maryland school is become the first HBCU in the state to help incarcerated men earn their degree.

The program was officially launched in the fall semester of 2022 and it offers the opportunity for men to earn their bachelor’s degree in a program at the Jessup Correctional Institution. In order to advance their education while locked up, Bowie State University offers the men core classes like math, science, and literature, as well as several specialized courses in more specific trades.

As reported by AfroTech, the program has been able to give incarcerated students another chance to excel once they’re released from prison, as well as stay out of trouble while they’re in prison. 

With the help of dedicated professors, BSU has been able to offer learning opportunities under the funding of the Second Chance Pell Grant. The revised grant “makes federal financial aid available to around 760,000 incarcerated students in 2023.”

The bachelor degree program has already begun to improve outlooks for recently released inmates, making it 48% less likely for formerly incarcerated people to return to prison after their initial release. 

Chair of Bowie State University’s department of criminal justice emphasized the importance of the BSU program for Jessup Correctional inmates.

Adams said, “This program is important to every citizen of Maryland because 90% of those who come in come back out. It’s far more damaging to release someone who is ill equipped. It gives them a second chance in life.”

Although the program is predicted to take up to seven years for Jessup Correctional students to finish, Adams admitted that he would be on board for anyone who wanted to up their classes load in order to finish earlier. The HBCU is already set to launch a pilot program for incarcerated women this fall if all goes well.

The successful program is already doing great work, but Adams told the outlet that they desperately need more resources. The incarcerated students have been dedicated to their learning, but professors have expressed a need to open up more classes, more authorized tutoring time, more professors willing to teach, books, materials such as printers and projectors, and access to online research journals conducive to learning. Some professors have even taken to pushing to make themselves available to work on weekends to make sure Jessup Correctional students have time to meet with tutors face to face. 

Adams reported to the outlet that BSU is “‘aggressively’ seeking external funding and working to hire more staff, like adjunct professors.”

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