New pilot program allows inmates to get free college education

Education

(WTNH) — Thursday, as students sign up for classes and get ready to go back to college, many inmates in Connecticut prisons are doing the same thing. The Second Chance Pell Grant pilot program allows inmates to take college courses and some will be bused onto the campus of at least one community college.

Holly Hetzel just signed up for classes at Middlesex Community College.

“It would depend on their crime or whatever, but I would rather not be sitting next to a scary person in my class. People are scary enough as it is, never mind inmates,” said Hetzel.

There are four community colleges is participating in the program.

Asnuntuck, Middlesex, Quinebaug, and Three Rivers community colleges. These schools were four of 67 schools selected nationwide by the White House to participate. The federal Pell Grant allows the inmates to take the college classes for free.

Hetzel says it’s hard to believe criminals get a free college education while the general public has to pay for it.

“That is a problem for me too, I don’t think it should be free. They should be treated like us, we have to pay, they have to pay,” said Hetzel.

According to Asnuntuck’s website, “a total of 16 low-risk, near release students will on campus at ACC, with an additional 400 inmates participating solely at area correctional facilities. Many of the students are currently located at low security, reintegration facilities and a high percentage are veterans.”

Of the four community college is participating in the program, not all of them are taking inmates and putting them into the classroom. As a matter of fact, at Middlesex Community College, they are taking the professors and bringing them to the prison to teach the inmates there. The Dean of Students, Adrienne Maslin, says it’s a good idea and can help an inmate turn their life around.

“Because of their education, because they’ll be working hard, because they’ll be studying, it’s a rigorous program. There is a lot they are going to have to do, and a lot of studying,” said Maslin.

Sen. John Kissel, a Republican from Enfield, says he cannot support busing inmates into the community college in his town.

“The state’s decision to bus inmates to ACC raises a slew of questions,” said Kissel. “The safety of staff and students must be paramount. Asnuntuck has an open campus where people come and go all the time. So many things could go wrong with this decision. All it takes is one bad event. I support inmate re-integration efforts in general, but I cannot support this decision. I don’t think it was properly thought through. I strongly urge state officials to reconsider this decision immediately.”

The national goal of this program is to enroll approximately 12,000 incarcerated students across the country who are likely to be released within five years.

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