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How HBCU Bowie State’s Degree Program Incarcerated Men Is Changing Lives

Maryland’s Bowie State University is the first HBCU in the state to help incarcerated men earn their college degrees.

The program, launched in the fall semester of 2022, offers the opportunity for men to earn their bachelor’s degree in a program at the Jessup Correctional Institution, offering core classes like math, science, and literature, as well as several specialized courses in more specific trades.

As reported by AfroTech, the program has given incarcerated students another chance to excel once they’re released from prison and stay out of trouble while 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 them to return to prison after their initial release. 

“This program is important to every citizen of Maryland because 90% of those who come in come back out,” said Charles Adams, chair of Bowie State University’s department of criminal justice. “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 supports anyone who wants to up their class load in order to finish earlier. The HBCU is already set to start a pilot program for incarcerated women this fall if all goes well.

The successful program is already doing great work, but Adams told AfroTech that more resources are needed.

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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