Georgetown University’s Prisons and Justice Initiative (PJI) recently began in-person classes for 25 students enrolled in the very first cohort of its bachelor’s degree program at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup, Maryland. Through its Prison Scholars Program, PJI has offered credit-bearing courses at the D.C. Jail since 2018 and last year announced the expansion to Maryland. The program will bring on a second cohort of 25 students later this year and expects to enroll 125 students over the next five years.
The new Prison Scholars program at Patuxent provides a five-year, 120-credit path to a liberal arts degree. “This new Bachelor of Liberal Arts program is an expression of our University’s deeply held values—our commitment to education, service, and the common good,” Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia said in a statement.
‘Georgetown will have a long-term positive impact‘
With help from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS), more than 300 people applied in fall 2021 to be part of the inaugural cohort of 25 students. Accepted students were transferred from their previous facilities to Patuxent Institution in December, according to program officials.
Modeled after Georgetown’s main campus undergraduate offerings, the program is funded by a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, along with support from the Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell experiment and donors such as Damien Dwin (MSB ’97), founder and CEO of Lafayette Square.
Each semester, enrolled students take two four-credit courses offered through Georgetown College. After completing several required courses, students choose from three majors: cultural humanities, interdisciplinary social science, or global intellectual history. Currently, students are taking introductory writing and philosophy classes. In addition to completing courses taught by Georgetown faculty, students at Patuxent will learn from guest speakers and have access to academic supportive services.
In a news release, Marc Howard, PJI’s director, said, “This degree program is a model for how universities can bring transformative education opportunities into prison and support second chances.”
DPSCS Secretary Robert Green says Georgetown’s program is encouraging incarcerated students to forge a new path forward. “An education from Georgetown will have a long-term positive impact on the students and prepare them to contribute positively to their communities in the future,” he says.
Rasheed Edwards, an incarcerated student, sees this program as an opportunity to start again. “I think that this Georgetown program is going to take me further in life, take me to places I didn’t even think were possible for me. It’s giving me a chance to change my trajectory in life.”