In a 1998 argument with another drug dealer over money, Juan Echevarria, then 23, killed the man and ended up spending 14 years in prison. Today, at 41, he is desperate to remake himself, the New York Times reports. Now a sleep-deprived college student, he lugs a textbook-filled backpack around John Jay College of Criminal Justice, pulling all-nighters, struggling with five-page papers and keeping close tabs on his 3.47 grade-point average. Part of the Prison-to-College Pipeline, a re-entry program that helps incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men pursue college degrees, Echevarria dreams of one day graduating. He hopes one day to become a director at the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services, the nonprofit organization where he works.
Fewer than one-fourth of ex-inmates are likely to stay out of prison after five years. With widespread consensus that the system is failing both offenders and their victims, state and federal governments are reinvesting in rehabilitative programs. New York state is committing $7.5 million to offer classes to 1,000 inmates over the next five years. Getting through college is no easy feat. After five years, only one of the 57 students in the Prison-to-College Pipeline (29 are still in prison) has graduated with an associate degree. No one has obtained a bachelor’s degree. And two who have been released have gone back to jail.