A group of 15 inmates of North Central Correctional Institute (NCCI) in Gardner received their Small Business Management Certificate last week from Mount Wachusett Community College as part of a national pilot program designed to provide education as a means of reducing recidivism and easing the transition out of prison.
“Everything you’ve done to this point has been to get you to the next step. I want you to continue on and continue your education,” said NCCI Gardner Superintendent Kristie Ladoucer at the graduation ceremony held at NCCI on Wednesday, June 12. “It’s really important that you invest in your education and your future.”
Of the 15 students who graduated from the eight class program, 10 also earned a Certificate of Merit for a GPA of 3.3 or higher. While this is the first student graduation through the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program at NCCI in Gardner, MWCC celebrated the graduation of 22 students through the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program at MCI-Shirley in June of 2018.
MWCC President James Vander Hooven encouraged the students to make the most of the opportunities afforded by their education and continue studying. This is the second DOC graduation attended by President Vander Hooven who explained that he is committed to education for everyone.
“A core duty of community colleges is to provide education to the entire community. It’s embedded in our name,” said President Vander Hooven of the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program. “These students will have a better chance of succeeding when they leave prison because they have furthered their education. That benefits everyone. I am committed to this program and ensuring that Mount Wachusett Community College continues to provide accessible education to all of our communities.”
Mount Wachusett Community College is one of 64 colleges and universities participating in the Second Chance Pell pilot program after being selected by the U.S. Department of Education in 2016. MWCC is the only school from Massachusetts participating in the program. The program is part of a national effort aimed at reducing recidivism and strengthening communities by providing education and job training to eligible inmates.
The pilot program was designed to fund educational opportunities for 12,000 eligible incarcerated Americans at more than 100 correctional institutions in 27 states through Pell grants with the goal of helping them get jobs and support through higher education. The pilot program involved the temporary suspension of the 1994 crime bill that restricted the use of Pell funding for those in state and federal custody.
MWCC partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to provide academic programs to inmates at the North Central Correctional Institute in Gardner, the Massachusetts Correctional Institute in Shirley, and the Federal Medical Center in Devens (which is not part of MADOC). Students in the pilot program took classes to get a Small Business Management Certificate. This certification prepares students to start their own business or enter the pipeline of additional education.
A 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, funded by the Department of Justice, found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who did not participate in any correctional education programs. RAND also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.