Incarcerated citizens at Maryland’s Jessup Correctional Institution can now earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology and an optional entrepreneurship certificate through a prison education program offered by historically Black Bowie State University through the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Bowie State is the first HBCU in Maryland to offer a degree program for individuals incarcerated at a state correctional facility.
The most recent data from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services show an average inmate population in 2021 of 1,586 men. More than 76 percent of the inmates in the maximum security facility are Black.
To participate in the program, incarcerated citizens must have graduated from high school or successfully completed their GED. The first cohort of seven students began courses in early November and range in age from the early 20s to over 50. They will take four courses each semester while pursuing their degrees in sociology with the goal of securing jobs or continuing their education after they are released from prison. Incarcerated students who apply and are accepted into the university will have all fees and tuition covered by Pell Grants.
“The university’s prison education program is embedded in our Restorative Justice and Practices Institute which enables us the opportunity to inject the principles of restoration, reconciliation, harms and needs, and empowerment into the curriculum,” said Charles Adams, chair of the department of criminal justice at Bowie State University “We want to inspire each individual in the program to strive for personal and educational freedom while they embrace the journey of becoming whole again.”