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Inmates receive their bachelor's degrees while serving time in prison
Second chances don't always come for everyone.
Rebecca Reid
10.20.21

Don’t count them out.

Inmates at a California prison have proved to themselves and to the world that it’s never too late to change the trajectory of your life. Through a special program, inmates at a state prison in Lancaster, CA earned bachelor’s degrees from California State University, Los Angeles. Their resilience and refusal to accept their current situation have opened the doors to a future of opportunity.

YouTube screenshot - ABC7
Source:
YouTube screenshot - ABC7

The program gave these men a second chance at life.

25 inmates received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Communications Studies through the partnership with Cal State LA. The gravity of their newfound success is something they aren’t taking lightly. “It’s upon me to get myself together and then go back to the community that I helped tear down, and help build that community up,” graduate Jason Keaton told ABC7 LA.

YouTube screenshot - ABC7
Source:
YouTube screenshot - ABC7

The first of its kind.

The occasion marked the first-ever graduation ceremony held at a state prison. Secretary Kathleen Allison of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) spoke to the importance of education for incarcerated individuals.

“Obtaining a higher education in a prison setting through a partner like Cal State LA is an opportunity for incarcerated people to have a true second chance. There is no resource more powerful than an education, where people can gain new skills and learn new perspectives,” said Secretary Kathleen Allison of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

YouTube screenshot - ABC7
Source:
YouTube screenshot - ABC7

Their accomplishment is well deserved.

The inmates got emotional while talking to ABC7 LA. Their path to a college degree wasn’t a traditional one but their effort to break free from a life of incarceration is truly inspiring. “I can’t change what happened in the past, but all I can do is change what I’m doing now.”- Dara Win told ABC7 LA.

YouTube screenshot - ABC7
Source:
YouTube screenshot - ABC7

The 4-year transformation is an encouraging step in the right direction.

Assistant Professor, Kamron Afary from California State University LA, attended the celebration and was in awe of the graduates and what they’ve accomplished. “I’ve been teaching courses here since 2017…it’s unbelievable moments…we watch these people [and] the transformation that has taken place over the last four years and all the hard work. – Afary told ABC7LA

YouTube screenshot - ABC7
Source:
YouTube screenshot - ABC7

The prison warden was there to congratulate the men on their success.

“The program is excellent..what they’re made to accomplish is almost overwhelming.” – R.C. Jonson, Prison Warden

YouTube screenshot - ABC7
Source:
YouTube screenshot - ABC7

The graduates found support and encouragement from one another.

They didn’t go through the process alone. They had each other to lean on, which can make all the difference for students who are already dealing with the stress of being incarcerated.

YouTube screenshot - ABC7
Source:
YouTube screenshot - ABC7

“None of us thought this would be possible and we faced a lot of adversity in our lives and in here…I’m so proud of everybody.” – inmate Aaron Benson told ABC7LA.

YouTube screenshot - ABC7
Source:
YouTube screenshot - ABC7

“Education creates safer neighborhoods with less crime.”

CDCR’s Superintendent of Office of Correctional Education, Shannon Swain shared her thoughts on the reality and positive impact of correctional education.

“College is much less expensive than incarceration, and recidivism rates for students who have taken college classes are vastly lower than for those who have not…Correctional education helps create safer neighborhoods with less crime, helps create citizens who work and pay taxes and contribute to their communities, and has a multi-generational positive impact.” – Swain

YouTube screenshot - ABC7
Source:
YouTube screenshot - ABC7

Sometimes all you need is a second chance.

When these 25 men are released from prison, success and opportunity will be waiting. Their hard work and positive outlook have paid off.

YouTube screenshot - ABC7
Source:
YouTube screenshot - ABC7

Now watch this inspiring video about the graduates who beat the odds.

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By Rebecca Reid
hi@sbly.com
Rebecca Reid is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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