Incarcerated Men Get A Second Chance At Education Thanks To Yale Partnership

Incarcerated Men Get A Second Chance At Education Thanks To Yale Partnership

Six men were able to gain access to higher education while incarcerated through a new partnership between the University of New Haven and Yale University’s Prison Education Initiative.

In 2021, the academic institutions’ released a statement that a $1.5 million grant donation from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation allowed the initiative to develop a degree-granting program for aspiring students who are serving out prison sentences in Connecticut. Those who are on parole were also allowed to participate, with guidance to careers after they are released.

The Associated Press reports the first cohort of graduates held their ceremony at the prison, with the hopes of a brighter future that will be tremendously benefitted from a college degree from either one of the state’s finest schools.

The men, excited to be known beyond their criminal status and more-so for their academic standing, now have greater aspirations to pursue esteemed professions, such as law school for one of the program’s graduates, Marcus Harvin.

“That name, Yale, means so much because I’m from New Haven and to be able to study at Yale and begin studying in prison is unheard of,” said the father of two. “People even think I’m lying sometimes, so I’ll show them my jail I.D. and my Yale I.D.”

The program has grown immensely through its funding, also expanding to a woman’s prison and developing a consortium of 15 schools and prison systems nationwide. The director of the Yale-UNH Partnership, alum Zelda Rowland, spoke on the transformational impact on not only the students, but on the institution involved on both sides,

“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.”

As for the graduation itself, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont shared a speech honoring the graduates, touching on the themes of self-determination and resilience that the program garners its strength from.

“You learn from the past, but you define your own future,” expressed the commencement speaker. “And what happens in your future is going to be your legacy. And I want you to have a really important story to tell.”

This growing program hopes to affect generations in its reach, while also reversing the stigma on those incarcerated and their ability to obtain success.