Inmates at Maryland prison grateful for second chance to further their education

Before sitting down to a special Thanksgiving holiday meal at a Maryland prison, two inmates, participants in a university program, talked about what they have to be grateful for. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

Heading into the holiday season often leads people to take stock of where they are in life.

And that’s the case for several students in the Bowie State University degree program at Maryland’s Jessup Correctional Institution.

WTOP first met some of the members of the class in August, and caught up with them as they got ready to share a Thanksgiving meal and focus on midterms.

The men have adapted to the student life — and it shows.

Jermain Williams talks about his progress in the four-year degree program offered by Bowie State University. On Thanksgiving Day, he said he was grateful for the chance to further his education. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

When Jermain Williams sat down at the prison library’s table for an interview, he got a pad and paper and jotted down some notes before answering questions.

Williams’ favorite class so far is the philosophy class. It has challenged him to think more deeply about things, he said.

Timothy Hawkins, whose habit of journaling sometimes draws curious inmates to ask him about his studies, said history is his favorite subject.

Both men said they are grateful for the opportunity that the Bowie State University program has provided.

“I’m grateful to be given the second chance to further my education,” Williams said.

Jermain Williams and Timothy Hawkins say they’re both thankful for the opportunity to have been involved in the Bowie State University degree program offered at Maryland’s Jessup Correctional Institution. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

Hawkins echoed those sentiments: “I’m grateful for the options — the options that I’ve been given through this program,” he said.

“If you’re on the outside looking in,” Hawkins said, “you’d think you may have a bunch of idiots running around here. They’re not — we’re not.”

“You’d be astounded by the number of people who want that opportunity.” They see the work he’s doing and, he said, “They want that chance.”

Williams said he wished that he’d paid more attention in school and understood the value of education as a young man.

Jermain Williams and Timothy Hawkins at Maryland’s Jessup Correctional Institution. They talked about their midterms, their favorite subjects — philosophy for Williams, history for Hawkins, and how many other inmates hope to enroll in the degree program offered by Bowie State University. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

“A lot of us, we went, but we didn’t go,” he said, explaining that he might have showed up, but didn’t apply himself.

“When I was younger, I made a lot of mistakes” that put him on the path that led to prison.

Now, Williams said, if he could talk to young people he’d say: “Go to school. Take your education seriously, because education is the key to the future,” and without it, “You’re not going to have too much going on.”

WTOP’s Kate Ryan reported from Jessup, Maryland.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up