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Ivy League behind bars

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 01:43

Getting a college education while in prison is nothing new, but getting a Columbia University education? Thanks to a new program, convicts north of New York City are doing just that. Gavino Garay reports.

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Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison is blazing a new trail for felons. While there's nothing new about gaining an education in prison for later reintegration into society, it's rare to see such a prestigious institution, like Columbia University, lending its name to the effort. These students are prisoners of the Taconic Correctional Facility just north of New York City. In this class, inmates are discussing Greek literature and Shakespeare. NAT SOT CONVERSATION Hudson Link includes a consortium of universities like Columbia and Vassar, and has been so successful it has seen its participants' recidivism reduced to less than 2 percent. Columbia University English professor Laura Ciolkowski says the program is giving convicts the tools they need for life outside prison. (SOUNDBITE) (English) (SOUNDBITE) (English) LAURA CIOLKOWSKI, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF SOCIAL DIFFERENCE AND ADJUNCT ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH AND COMPARATIVE LITERATURE AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "I think these skills will absolutely enable them to make better choices once they're outside, and to feel like they're more a part of a larger community, and that they have a voice in that community." Among the students is Aisha Elliott, now a grandmother who's been serving a 25-year sentence for murder. She intends transfer her credits earned behind bars to Columbia's Manhattan campus after she gets out this summer. SOUNDBITE) (English) AISHA ELLIOTT, STUDENT PRISONER, SAYING: "Knowing I was going to get a Columbia education was actually more exciting than hearing I was going home after doing 25 years." And with her newly acquired education, correctional facility officials hope she'll avoid the pitfalls that landed her in prison and lead her toward a more promising future.

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Ivy League behind bars

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 01:43