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Georgetown degree program launches for Maryland prisons

Georgetown University students and inmates at Jessup Correctional Institution break into groups in 2016 to discuss ways to reform the prison system. (Lucian Perkins/For The Washington Post)
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The first cohort of students in Georgetown University’s degree program for prisons in Maryland has begun classes, officials announced.

In-person classes at the Patuxent Institution, in Jessup, Md., started Feb. 14 for the 25 students accepted into the program. Officials announced the liberal arts degree program last spring as an expansion of the Prison Scholars Program that Georgetown offers at the D.C. jail. Students completing the program will earn bachelor’s degrees from the university.

“This degree program is a model for how universities can bring transformative education opportunities into prison and support second chances,” Marc Howard, the director of the Georgetown Prisons and Justice Initiative, said in a news release.

Georgetown University to introduce degree program for Maryland inmates

A second cohort of 25 students will be admitted later this year, and officials said they expect 125 students to enroll within the next five years in the 120-credit interdisciplinary program.

The university’s admissions process for the program began last fall with the help of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, officials said. After more than 300 people applied from throughout the Maryland prison system, those selected from other facilities were transferred to Patuxent Institution, according to officials.

The degree program offers cultural humanities, interdisciplinary social science and global intellectual history as its three majors, officials said. Students this semester are taking introductory classes in writing and philosophy. The program will take about five years for most students to complete, officials said, with two four-credit classes offered each semester.

Officials said the degree program is supported by donors including Georgetown alumnus Damien Dwin, the Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell experiment and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which made a $1 million grant.

“This new Bachelor of Liberal Arts program is an expression of our University’s deeply held Values — our commitment to education, service, and the common good — and we are honored to welcome these 25 new students as members of our Georgetown community,” Georgetown University President John DeGioia said in the news release.

Rasheed Edwards, a student in the new cohort, said the program will open doors.

“I think that this Georgetown program is going to take me further in life, take me to places I didn’t even think were possible for me,” Edwards said in the release. “It’s giving me a chance to change my trajectory in life.”

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