By David Thompson
Seven incarcerated citizens at Jessup Correctional Institution have completed their first semester of courses offered by Bowie State towards a degree in sociology or a certificate in entrepreneurship. These male students were the first cohort of a new program launched in January that covers an inmates’ tuition and fees through federal Second Chance Pell Grants.
“This program has been wildly successful,” said Dr. Charles Adams, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Bowie State. “Our goal is to educate and help inspire these men to make meaningful changes in their lives so they’re better prepared to reintegrate into society after they are released. With the proliferation of AI and other technologies, it is imperative returning citizens have skills that can translate into a job market that is constantly changing,” he said.
In the fall, the program will expand by at least 10 new male students along with 10 – 20 females who are expected to participate in a new special restorative justice program for women who are within 12 months of being released from the institution.
“The women will be expected to complete four core courses: introduction to restorative justice, restorative justice process models, American criminal law and restorative justice, and restorative justice and the community,” said Dr. Matasha Harris, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and coordinator of the women’s program. “The courses are designed to serve as a careers pathways to encourage women to pursue education, sociology or other degrees since female offenders are often invisible and programs are not designed to meet their needs. With female incarcerated citizen populations surging in Maryland, it is imperative Bowie State is there to meet their needs, particularly since most of them are women of color.”
Bowie State’s Institute for Restorative Justice’s prison education program for females will be supported by a four-year $385,000 grant award from the State of Maryland.
Bowie State is the only HBCU in Maryland that’s offering college courses for incarcerated citizens at Jessup or any other institution in the state.