19 inmates at Cheshire Correctional Institution are taking college courses at the prison through a pilot program by Wesleyan University.
Russell Perkins co-founded the program and is an alumnus. He worked with Wesleyan to launch the two year program, after his experience as a student working with inmates during informal reading groups. He says the idea benefits both prisoners and the community.
"Study after study has shown dramatic reductions in recidivism based on higher education offered in prison, with rates dropping from 60 to 15%."
That's according to The Bard College in New York which is paying for the pilot. Bard started the college in prisons initiative back in the mid 1990s after many states cut funding for similar programs nationwide.
120 inmates at Cheshire applied to take the courses. Of the 19 chosen, some are serving long prison terms.
Some critics have questioned why resources are being spent to educate these offenders. Again, Russell Perkins.
"What we found is that our students even if an offender has a longer sentence...through their participation in this program are then able to become positive role models for their families adn their children--in ways that they weren't previously able to be."
Wesleyan will review the pilot next year and decide whether to continue based on the inmates' achievement and the program's impact on undergrad student volunteers and faculty working in the program.