First Cohort of Wash U Prison Program Graduates

By Free Radical

Endocrinologist and Howard professor Stanley Andrisse was selected as the guest speaker at the Prison Education Project graduation.

Endocrinologist and Howard professor Stanley Andrisse was selected as the guest speaker at the Prison Education Project graduation. The native of Florrisant also spent time in prison before earning his Ph.D.

On Wednesday, the first ten members of Washington University’s Prison Education Project program graduated with associates degrees. The ceremony, held at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in the town of Pacific, was attended by friends, family, prison staff, and university representatives.

The Prison Education Program began in 2014 and offers for credit college courses to inmates and prison staff. This feature is done to foster mutual understanding from both groups’ participation in an academic community.

Each semester students take two to four classes in areas such as ethnography, calculus, and religion.

“It awakened something in me that needed to be awakened,” graduate Kareem Martin said.

The program is one of nearly 200 in the country that attempt to reduce recidivism by making incarceration a truly rehabilative experience. This is done in spite of consistent threats to prison funding by state legislatures.  Wash. U’s program is funded by the university.

St. Louis University has a similar program in Bonne Terre and since its inception in 2008, none of its graduates returned to prison.

This year’s speaker was the endocrinologist and Howard University Assistant Professor Stanley Andrisse. Andrisse was relatable as he is from Ferguson, Missouri, has three felony convictions, and spent ten years in prison.

“You have a piece of paper that will open doors that you never imagined would be opened,” Andrisse told the graduates. “Education is transformative. Use it to rewrite your story.”

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