by Graham Antreasian
After being selected by the US Department of Education, The University of Baltimore has partnered for several years with the Jessup Correctional Institution through the Second Chance Pell Grant Program.
The Program is a Federal initiative started during the Obama Administration that allows incarcerated people across the United States to receive a college education.
Second Chance offers mentorship and tutoring services under its educational platform in a similar capacity to what UB provides for all of its students. The Program’s mentors and tutors are other incarcerated men who take on leadership roles because of their commitment to higher education.
Second Chance is available depending on the nature of the admitee’s convictions and probable parole dates, with the caveat that good behavior is required. Under director Andrea Cantora, Second Chance admitted 52 individuals in the 2017-2018 academic year as University of Baltimore students.
Each semester, enrolled students take two to three courses with an additional 10 hours of weekly half sessions. In these study sessions, the students are provided access to computers, time studying with a tutor or mentor, and general counseling as needed.
Second Chance allows students to start coursework at JCI with the idea that they will transfer to the University of Baltimore campus when released. When incarcerated students transfer to UB’s campus, there are re-entry strategies in place to help guide them.
Dr. Nicole Hudgins, an associate professor of History at JCI, has taught classes through Second Chance.
“As UB is a four-year school, it is able to offer bachelor’s degrees where a good number of colleges on the coveted list are community colleges and can only offer associates with the ability to transfer,” Hudgins said.
At JCI, UB offers a B.A. in Human Services Administration with an option to minor in Entrepreneurship.
The training for the Human Services Administration degree not only allows felons to have a degree from a reputable institution like UB but also takes into account their skills and ability to use a social justice lens when taking on jobs in the human services field.
Program graduates have entered fields such as public service, addiction counseling and social work.
“I went into JCI with trepidation but soon discovered that the men were excellent students. Not having technological distractions, they read the assigned texts carefully and arrive to class fully prepared to discuss what is often challenging reading.” Hudgins continued, “It was a revelation to see that the students understood theoretical material perfectly. Anything dealing with injustice, oppression, like Frantz Fanon or Karl Marx, they had a good understanding of the arguments.”
Spring 2021 starts a new semester at JCI. With Covid-19 making its way into all aspects of everyday life, prisons are no exception. Remote learning may seem to be a challenge to some, but Cantora is familiar with the landscape and is fiercely dedicated to this program succeeding.
Graham Antreasian is a staff writer for The Sting.