Daily Archives: November 17, 2009

Non sum qualis eram

From the NYTimes comes this heartwarming story of one of the nation’s elite universities privately funding an educational program in one of CT’s toughest prisons. Starting this year, Wesleyan brings its excellent curriculum and stringent admission requirements to prison, in an effort to educate and rehabilitate inmates, something the State of Connecticut and the DOC  have long given up.

For 19 spots, there were 120 applications, and rightly so. This program presents an unique opportunity: to get a high-level education and to attempt to rebuild one’s life and prepare for an eventual release into a world that won’t acknowledge their existence (for some).  There are several remarkable things about this program. One of them is that the crime of conviction is not a factor in who gets accepted into the program. So whether you’re a murderer or someone who was selling drugs, you have an equal shot at getting accepted. The second feature that struck me was that while there is no guarantee that graduates of this program will get a degree from Wesleyan, they will be entitled to access to career services upon release.

Imagine that! Inmates will have somewhere to go, armed with an education and the possibility of a degree and get assistance in finding a job. The State should be ashamed of itself.

Reading this article, I learned some things about Wesleyan and its tradition and history:

But the university has a long history of civic engagement that traces back to its Methodist roots. It is named after John Wesley, an 18th-century minister who championed prison reform and helping the downtrodden. Two students, Russell Perkins and Molly Birnbaum, who had volunteered in prisons as students, revived the idea last year when they were seniors and figured out a way to finance it.

What’s even more stunning is that this proposal was scheduled for a vote the very same day that a student at Wesleyan was gunned down in a bookstore. The school merely postponed the vote 2 weeks and during that subsequent vote, it was approved. Goes to show you that to recognize that not all “criminals” are the same, you merely have to have your head screwed on straight.

Of course, this brings the usual din of dissent and cries of “wah, you’re helping those scum criminals” from the usual suspects. I don’t have very many good things to say about the State’s victim’s advocate (none, really), so I’ll just quote her and let it speak for itself: