Phila. Prisons Start First College-Level Classes In 2 Decades


Fifteen Philadelphia inmates are the first class of students in almost two decades to take college-credit courses in the city’s prison system, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. The system offers literacy programs, GED courses, and job-readiness workshops. “The frustration for us: Now what?” said Louis Giorla, commissioner of prisons. “Now these guys can go to the next level. It’s just a beginning. But it’s a great beginning.”

The pilot program is the vision of Tara Timberman, founder and coordinator of the Reentry Support Project at Community College of Philadelphia. Her reason was simple: “Those who pursue college education have lower recidivism rates.” Timberman, the Defenders Association, and prison social workers identified inmates who were qualified, eligible, and likely to be in the system long enough to complete the course. The prisoin is a minimum-custody facility, with most residents in for theft, drugs, and nonviolent offenses. Most sentences run from 11 1/2 to 23 months. For 10 weeks, the class studied English and drama. They wrote essays by hand, dissected The Iliad, and acted out scenes from August Wilson’s play Fences.

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