Georgetown University accepting applications for bachelor’s degree program for Md. prisoners

Georgetown University in D.C. is now accepting applications for a new program that allows inmates in Maryland prisons to get a college education.

The university will choose 25 inmates who will be transferred to Patuxent Institution in Jessup to enroll in the five-year program that begins in January 2022.

“We are trying to contribute to a better society,” Marc Howard, director of Georgetown University’s Prisons and Justice Initiative, said.

The idea was first set in motion back in April, when the Prisons and Justice Initiative, or PJI, signed an agreement with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to launch the program.

Inmates who qualify can seek a liberal arts degree with completion of 120 credit hours with a specialty in cultural humanities, interdisciplinary social science or global intellectual history.

Howard said the pandemic slowed down the timeline to accept applications for the program, which is funded through a $1 million three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Howard said there’s a lot of research that shows that when people acquire an education while incarcerated, they never go back to crime.

“If we care about public safety and reducing costs, keeping in mind it costs almost $50,000 a year to incarcerate somebody, we are trying to contribute to a better society,” Howard said.

PJI already offers classes to people held at the D.C. Central Detention Facility, where inmates can earn credit for college courses.

Howard said those jail inmates can’t be offered a shot at a full degree, since their stays are usually shorter and the jail is much more transient.

He also addressed critics who feel prisoners who are doing time shouldn’t be offered a chance at a college education.

“In no way are we trying to reward people for the mistakes that they made,” Howard sad. “But we are really trying to create safer communities. Prison education is the no. 1 method for doing that, and we want to be a part of that effort.”

Applications will be accepted until Oct. 29, and Howard said they expect to have hundreds of applicants.

Information on applying can be found on the Prisons and Justice Initiative website.

Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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