This morning I had the pleasure of addressing the graduating GED class at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. The Center is a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility in lower Manhattan. The 12 graduates in attendance are among the over 40 that have received their GED this year through the Center’s education program—double the number from a few years ago. In the audience were family members and tutors; other inmates who volunteer their time to help fellow inmates attain the GED. I was struck by the dedication of the staff and tutors. One graduate, who was honored at the event, was not so sure about the program initially. He told me during the reception that his instructor kept on him and would not give up. He credited her persistence as a key reason why he passed the GED. Each graduate I spoke with had a genuine optimism about their future; they were also clear that they did not want to ever come back to prison.
My time at the facility with the men and their families reminded me about the importance of education and the need get education programs back in prison. We know that education programs in prison reduce recidivism and improve job prospects for persons returning from prison. A friend once told me that when he was on the inside he had a choice to make: "to either do his time, or let the time do him." Prison education programs offer men and women who are incarcerated an opportunity to “do their time” in a way that will benefit not just themselves but also their families and the larger community.
Harlem Community Justice Center