EAST LYME, Conn. — Inside Connecticut’s only women’s prison, some of the inmates are earning college degrees.
Monday we met 11 different women serving time in currently inside York Correctional Institute. One of them in the middle of a life sentence, another set to be released in just three weeks. All of them telling us the same thing, that their lives are changed by the college courses they’ve taken inside of this prison.”
“Between the education, between the relationship, between my crime, I came here completely done for as a person,” said Tracy Shumaker, who is in the middle of a 25 year sentence.
Turning inmates into productive members of society, that’s the goal when enrolling inmates into college course while they are still serving time in prison.
“Get my bachelors and just continue to do what I do here, I mentor groups,” said Shumaker.
Monday Sen. Chris Murphy held a roundtable discussion with women serving time. All of them enrolled in college courses, largely made possible by pell grants. Some earning associates degrees and now working towards bachelors. Murphy has co-sponsored a bill that would restore pell grant eligibility for all inmates.
Currently only a small portion of inmates are eligible.
“It’s also just a wise investment of taxpayer dollars. By not providing a college education to people that are incarcerated you’re basically inviting them to land right back in prison,” said Sen. Murphy.
One by one women like Shonda shared their stories about how they got there, and how taking courses with this program has changed them.
“I had gotten into trouble with violence with my family. The pell program actually kept me from getting tickets, kept me out of trouble, it gave me a different outlook on my life and helped me to realize that violence is not the answer,” said Shonda Northup, who is in the middle of a 45 year sentence.
Other women shared their dreams with the Senator, one woman hoping to get out start her own business and employee other people who have served time.
Senator Murphy says this bill has bipartisan support, while he can’t guarantee how his colleagues will vote, he does expect it to pass.