03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Wesleyan Offers College Education To High-Security Prisoners

With shrinking endowments and funding cutbacks, most colleges would be wary of launching new initiatives. But two months ago, the New York Times reported, Wesleyan expanded their class offerings for an eager group of students at Cheshire Correctional Institution in Connecticut.

Unlike other Wesleyan classes, though, each of the students -- all men -- had numbers like 271013 or 298331 on their khaki shirts. They were, in fact, inmates at the state prison here and all part of a daring, privately financed experiment in higher education that takes murderers and drug dealers and other inmates with histories of serious crime and gives them an opportunity to get an elite college education inside their high-security prison.

Only 19 of the 120 inmates who applied were accepted into the Wesleyan program, which offers a range of courses including those in biology, politics and humanities.

Collectively, the class faces more than 600 years in prison. Several students, in fact, have little prospect of ever using their college credits in a career: prison will be their home for this lifetime.
But many of them speak with pure clarity about the reasons they were drawn to school again: idle curiosity, intellectual interest, a longing to be part of the big conversations of the day, and a desire for self-respect... "It's rejuvenating," said Antonio Rivera, 23, who likes to read history and is less than halfway through a 12-year sentence for drug dealing.

Wesleyan joins a number of other schools, including Bard and Boston University, that have expanded their class offerings to neighboring prisons. Visit the New York Times site to read the full story.

Get HuffPost Impact On Facebook and Twitter!