Watch CBS News

'It's A Life Changer' | Goucher College's Prison Education Partnership Offers Maryland Prisoners Chance At A College Degree

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- There are nearly 18,000 men and women incarcerated in Maryland.

According to research, the vast majority of those men and women will be released when they've served their sentence, but nearly half will end up back behind bars.

In search of answers to end this cycle, Goucher College believes the answer is education. It's program, Goucher Prison Education Partnership (GPEP), offers college-level courses at two correctional institutions.

These courses can, and often do, lead to a college degree.

For Curtis Thompson, who has eight years left to serve of his sentence for robbery, GPEP offers him a chance to change his life.

"Don't come back, don't be part of the recidivism rate," he said. "Just be productive in the community and redeem myself."

Denise Koch: So you want to get a college degree?

Curtis Thompson: Oh, absolutely. That's the goal.

That goal is achievable.

Donte Small, 29, was in GPEP two years before being released and finishing his degree at Goucher. That is the goal of Kernard Johnson.

Johnson is one of half a dozen GPEP students at area colleges and universities finishing the degree they began in prison.

"It's a life changer," Johnson said. "My goal now is I have an application for Catholic University for social work."

It costs the state of Maryland $40,000 a year to incarcerate an inmate, while it cost GPEP $6,000 a year to educate them.

About 75 percent of the money for GPEP comes from gifts and private funding. The rest comes from federal grants.

Delontae Britton joined GPEP after he saw its effects on fellow inmates.

"I got to see how they were moving, how they were able to have something to stand for, wasn't following the norm and thought I want to be part of that," he said.

Kate Welch teaches at Goucher and for GPEP.

"The students here, if you ask them why are you in college, they know and have very, very clear answers," Welch said.

Goucher is the only college in the region offering bachelor degrees to people while incarcerated.

There are nearly 800 women at the Women's Correctional Institution and nearly 10 percent of them are in GPEP.

Sara Citroni has served 26 years. She was incarcerated as a juvenile for murder and may never leave.

"I've been hungry for education, and I'm being fed," Citroni said.

There are over 1,000 inmates on GPEP's wait list, who most, will get out from behind bars someday.

"They're curious, they're inquisitive, they want to do the reading," Goucher Professor Brandon Arvesen said. "They want to do the work. They are self-motivated students."

GPEP also offers college prep classes and tutoring to its students.

Later this month, four students previously enrolled in GPEP, including Kernard, will be celebrating their graduations from college.

"Do you want them to get out humiliated and oppresses and not have done anything, or do you want them to get out educated and rehabilitated so they're a great citizen," Citroni said.

You can learn more about the Goucher Prison Education Partnership here.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.