Higher Education in Prison Program | Guilford College

Higher Education in Prison Program | Guilford College

September 13, 2019 1 By Ronny Jaskolski


– On any given day here in this country, we have almost two million
people that are incarcerated or that are part of the
criminal justice system. It’s profound and that means that we have
lots of systemic problems that keep those numbers in place. If we keep going in this
particular direction with extensive, aggressive policies that are sending people to
prison for long periods of time then we’re gonna have to
bring college to them. Here at Guilford College, we
have a very unique program. It’s called the Higher
Education in Prison Program. It started in January of 2014 and it’s essentially a
program where we’re offering liberal arts courses in three
correctional facilities. – Any education gives a
wonderful stepping stool when there’s not a lot of opportunities throughout the system for that and for this to be from Guilford, to be such a high level school, to come in and give us these things, I can’t even express what
that meant to my spirit to be able to have that opportunity. – Our goal is to simulate as much of the Guilford College experience that our students have on
campus in these facilities. The only difference is that they don’t have access to the internet. They don’t have computers. – If you could learn in prison where you have to write an
eight-page paper by hand without any Google, no
typewriter, no nothing to do it and you’re writing it by hand and you’re doing a decent job so that your professor
can read it and grade it and use it to get your point across, I think if you take that as
a life lesson to the outside that is you can accomplish anything you want to accomplish
no matter where you are. – I must say we had a wonderful
celebration in December when we had our first nine
of the 15 original cohort to graduate from our program
at the women’s prison in the Southern Correctional Institution and I was so proud of them. They worked so hard. – I fell along the lines of
the statistics that we studied. I didn’t realize that I was a statistic and I don’t wanna be a statistic anymore so this class showed me
that I have permission, I can give myself permission to fail and I can give myself
permission to rise and conquer and that’s what I give myself
permission to do today. – There were many tears
that were shed that day, but I was so proud of them and to see their families
just recognize them as being very successful. It was very moving. – I learned a lot of self-discipline from the demanding work and I got a lot of confidence from benchmarking myself every semester and doing a little better each time. – Throughout the program, we would not have been
able to be successful without some really
hard work and dedication from our instructors and I cannot thank Shana Scudder, Michael Dutch, Stephen Hill enough for what they’ve been
doing for the program and it really shows and
I’m really appreciative. We are a mission-based school and one of our core values
is justice and equality and how we believe that it is always about how we’re giving back to the community and we’re always fighting for justice. I am the beneficiary of one who’s received second chances. There’s a song by Marvin Sapp and it’s called “He Saw The Best In Me.” the words to the chorus of the song is, “He saw the best in me when everyone else around me could only see the worst in me,” and I carry that. For me, this is coming full circle. I worked for the police department for many years. I worked as a young prosecutor right after law school. I worked in the Public Defender’s Office and I’m still doing consultancy work and it’s been over 30 years. I think part of my life assignment is to work for criminal justice reform and it’s always about changing lives. I hope that it spreads like wildfire and that all over the country that we can have colleges and universities that are in prisons delivering that message. (gentle music)