NIANTIC, CT (WFSB) – Inmates serving time for murder and other felonies at the York Correctional Center in Niantic hope continued federally funded education keeps them on the right path and out of prison.
Senator Chris Murphy got a lesson on the success of the Pell Grant program on Monday.
Everyone one of the 11 inmates that spoke during a press conference had a transformative story to tell. They entered the walls of the prison, younger and angry, but with time and opportunity to continue their education, they say the education made them better people.
Shonda Northrup was 25 years old when she was sentenced 15 years ago with two other women for the murder of a 19-year-old man in Rhode Island.
“I used to get in trouble a lot with a lot of fights and stuff like that,” Northrup said.
Tracy Schumaker of Colchester has 9 years left of a 16-year sentence for the murder of her husband in 2004.
On Monday, she had hope for life after prison with a college education thanks to Federal Pell Grants through Three Rivers, Wesleyan University, and Middlesex Community College.
“I don’t think if it wasn’t for this group, these colleges, I think a lot of us would be stuck in that same cycle,” Schumaker said.
In 2013, RAND study for the Department of Justice found that incarcerated individuals in education programs are 43 percent less likely to return to prison.
Many shared with Murphy, who’s hoping to continue the Pell Grant funding, that this program has been a blessing.
“Almost every single one of these women say it transformed them because when you end up in prison you’ve done something pretty awful right, but your life isn’t over,” Murphy said.
“These students they read everything. They come to class ready to engage on a level that is on par with the brightest students we have in Middletown,” said Anthony Hatch, Wesleyan University.
The inmates are earning college credits, some already have earned Associate Degrees and are going for Bachelor Degrees and onto a career.