Georgetown University announced this week that applications are open for its expanded Prisons and Justice Initiative, which will allow a cohort of 25 incarcerated individuals in Maryland to pursue a bachelor’s degree through the university.
Although Georgetown initially launched the initiative in April, the pandemic slowed the application process. Once applications are received by October 29, 2021, selected students will begin the five-year program in January.
“I think that we are setting a new example, reaching a new level, that I hope will help other universities and our society overall recognize the tremendous potential of incarcerated people, that their lives have value,” Marc Howard, the founding director of the PJI program and a government and law professor at Georgetown, told the university’s student newspaper in April. “If we humanize and support them, they will become truly successful. They will become wonderful family members and community members. There are a lot of reasons to support this work.”
Since 2018, the program has offered non-degree courses at the Washington D.C. Central Detention Facility. However, thanks to a $1 million three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and approval from the Maryland state government, prisoners will be able to seek a bachelor’s degree in cultural humanities, global intellectual history, or interdisciplinary social science after completing 120 credit hours. Courses will be taught at the maximum-security Patuxent Institution in Jessup, Maryland. Students accepted into the program from other state prisons will be transferred to Patuxent.
In an interview with a local news station, Howard said recidivism rates among educated prisoners are much lower than those without an education. Even beyond the obvious educational benefits to the participating prisoners, Howard says the program will improve public safety and reduce taxpayer costs.