This is the season for graduations, but this week a group of men accomplished what they could never have dreamed of.
They aren’t your typical graduates; they are inmates. Six of them received certificates from Asnuntuck Community College this week. A ceremony was held at Cybulski Prison in Enfield.
"This is about accountability to those who have shown accountability to themselves,” said Department of Corrections Commissioner Scott Semple.
The men have been incarcerated for years, but they have been given a second chance.
A pilot program with federal money gave them the opportunity to take college courses and get certified in advanced manufacturing.
To do that, they were allowed to leave the prison to work on machines and learn skills.
"At 46 I never thought I would get the opportunity to go to college or get a degree in anything,” said Rich Halapin, an inmate graduate.
He’s spent most of his life locked up after being arrested for robberies and drugs.
"These opportunities for us incarcerated men is a real chance to change our old ways,” Halapin said.
They just didn’t graduate either. Three, including Halapin, are being inducted into the honor society.
"Best students, so dedicated to their studies, they came in each week beyond where their studies needed to be,” said Asnuntuck Community College President James Lombella.
They will be getting out of prison soon, and the group who went through the courses before them all have jobs.
"From the moment I started this, me and my daughter reunited because when we make poor choices and we do things to come here - we lose hope and faith in our families and to have them back in my life. It’s the biggest thing a man could have in his heart and I am never going to give it up again...never,” Halapin said.
A study was done by the Department of Correction which shows inmates who participate in work programs are 43 percent less likely to return to prison.
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