On Tuesday, the University faculty voted to reapprove the Center for Prison Education, extending the pilot program for a five-year period. The program, which passed by an overwhelming vote of 67-1 with three abstentions, plans to double the number of inmates enrolled in for-credit college courses at Cheshire Correctional Institution, and expand operations to York Prison, a women’s facility in Niantic, Conn. next year.
“I’m completely overwhelmed,” said CPE Fellow Lexi Sturdy ’10. “It was so exciting, and I’ve just been working like crazy because now is when the real work begins. We’ve been sending out e-mails to all our supporters, and we now have to work to get everything approved at the prisons.”
The CPE, which was approved for a two-year pilot period in May 2009, currently provides two college level courses a semester to a specially selected group of 19 inmates at Cheshire. The courses are taught by Wesleyan faculty and allow inmates to earn college credit while in prison.
Moving forward, Sturdy and others working with the program will build upon fundraising efforts. According to Sturdy, the CPE has so far raised about $170,000, which will be enough to fund at least the next year without affecting funding for Wesleyan’s regular operations.
The CPE will open up applications at Cheshire this summer. York applications are expected to open the following summer.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “It was the best day of my life. I was telling the [CPE students] yesterday and I actually started to cry. It’s just exciting because I know that in a big way, this is because of how hard they worked. The entire program was judged on their ability to do these classes, and this was a true win for them. They have every right to be proud of themselves, and it felt so good to be able to tell them that with the support of Wesleyan behind me.”