Racial injustice. Voting. Prisons. Entitlements. Zero tolerance. These are but a few of the topics written about by inmates enrolled in the Community College of Rhode Island Introductory Sociology class taught by Meghan Kallman in the John J. Moran Medium Security facility. Ms. Kallman was gracious in submitting all papers for my review and as I reviewed the body of work I felt proud.
Proud of the ability of students to express themselves appropriately. Proud to be able to offer CCRI courses to the offender population. Proud of the quality and scope of educational services within the RIDOC. Proud of the commitment of not only Ms. Kallman, but of the entire faculty and staff associated with RIDOC education programs. Proud to be part of a team committed to providing quality educational services to the offender population.
Introductory Sociology was but one of several CCRI programs offered to offenders. HVAC, Culinary Arts, Plastering and Dry Wall, and Computer Literacy are a sampling of CCRI vocational offerings. The RIDOC Education Unit also has Adult Basic Education and GED classes offered in all facilities. During Fiscal 2015, there were 196 GED’s earned and 13 AA degrees were awarded by CCRI.
Do the participants appreciate what we do for them? In my heart of hearts, I believe the answer is a definite yes. I don’t have data to answer this question, so why do I say yes?
Recently, GED teacher Angie Barboza passed away unexpectedly. The outpouring of sympathy and support expressed by the inmates as I walked through the yard was moving and sincere. The appreciation of all that she did for them as a teacher was touching. While my own heart breaks over this loss, the outpouring of supportive comments reinforced the pride I feel in all that they do – faculty, staff, and students.
Before the severity of Angie’s illness was known and her return was expected, one of her students wrote, “You taught me all kinds of math. Even though I was going to give up, you would talk me out of it…You give me hope for trying to achieve my GED.”
I believe that education is the key to hope for a better life. This belief is supported by data. (Read a recent study by the staff of the Correctional Education Association, the US Department of Education, and the Indiana Department of Correction on the benefits of correctional education programs.) I am grateful for the commitment of the RIDOC in its support of educational and vocational programming for the offender population consistent with its mission. The Education Unit strives to offer high quality programs on a daily basis.
This post is published as part of the Prison Op/Ed Project, an occasional series authored by CCRI sociology students who are incarcerated at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute.