JESSUP -- Some Bowie State University students are getting their degree while behind bars, all thanks to a partnership between the HBCU and Jessup Correctional Institute.
Damon McDuffie, who has been an inmate at JCI for the last three years, said if he didn't get there, he likely wouldn't have cared for his education, getting a GED.
"Being around people that's been locked up since they've been teenagers, or don't have education or support -- it motivates you to do better," McDuffie said.
McDuffie is now working toward a bachelor's degree in Bowie State's sociology program. The partnership kicked off this past Fall and he's one of nine inmates in the program.
He said his family has been cheering him on.
"My sister actually goes to Delaware State University, so we're both in HBCUs. My mother kind of happy about both of that," McDuffie said.
The program is possible with the help of Second Chance Pell Grants, which are specifically for incarcerated individuals.
Carolyn J. Scruggs, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said education has been a big priority for inmates.
She said it gives inmates a lot more than just a degree.
"It gives them a sense of pride. It actually changes the climate within how they move every day," Scruggs said. "Now they feel better than themselves, I would say."
It's the case of Kyle Longerbean, he said being in the program has helped him connect more with his son.
"[I'll tell him] I might be in prison, but I'm still getting A's and B's. I'm 37-years-old and dad's still in school, so you can do it," Longerbean said. "He has no excuse now."
The aim is to expand the number of degrees offered, but Bowie State also hopes to partner with a women's correctional facility down the road.
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