In a first, Georgetown bachelor’s program in prison welcomes mixed-gender class

On Sept. 6, 2022, Georgetown University’s Prison Scholars Program welcomed a new cohort of 20 men and 5 women at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup, Maryland, becoming the nation’s first program for incarcerated students to offer the same bachelor’s degree opportunity to both men and women in the same classroom, according to a university press release. This marks the second cohort for the Bachelor of Liberal Arts program in the Maryland prison, which is offered through Georgetown University’s College of Arts & Sciences. Students were selected from nearly 300 applicants across the state. 

New voices, perspectives

Mixed-gender prison education programming is rare in the U.S. In Maryland, women make up less than 4% of the total prison population, and most incarcerated women are located at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, where Goucher College offers a bachelor’s degree program

Marc Howard, founding director of Georgetown’s Prisons and Justice Initiative—which also has offered co-educational credit-bearing courses at the D.C. Jail since 2018—says it was critical to include women in the Patuxent program’s second cohort. “Not only do we owe it to the women incarcerated in Maryland to offer them this opportunity, their presence in the classroom will also enrich every aspect of the program,” Howard said. “Having their voices and perspectives in the classroom will better prepare all of our students to navigate the workplace upon re-entry.”

Empowering students through higher education

The Patuxent program currently serves a total of 48 incarcerated students, including the new cohort. The 120-credit interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program is modeled after those on Georgetown’s Main Campus and offers incarcerated students a choice of three majors: interdisciplinary social science, cultural humanities, or global intellectual history.

“We’re thrilled to have another class begin their Georgetown education at the Patuxent Institution,” said Secretary Robert Green, who leads the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. “By earning their degrees, these students will create great opportunities for themselves in the future and create stronger communities.”

Georgetown is a Second Chance Pell site, and students have access to federal Pell grants. Officials plan to enroll a total of 125 students within five years.

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