Georgetown Prison Scholars Program At The DC Jail

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The Georgetown Prison Scholars Program at the DC Jail launched in January 2018. The Scholars Program represents a new partnership between Georgetown’s Prisons and Justice Initiative and the DC Department of Corrections. The courses are held in the DC Central Treatment Facility, which houses male and female DC residents awaiting trial, serving short sentences, or preparing to return to their communities after a longer period of incarceration with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The Prison Scholars Program is the only co-education prison education program in the country, ensuring that all residents at CTF have an opportunity to pursue higher education.

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In the Spring 2018 semester, 34 men and women incarcerated at the DC Jail began taking courses in English, Philosophy, Music, Debate, and Government, and they attended a weekly lecture series with guest speakers from across the humanities and social sciences. The classes were taught by Georgetown faculty, and several were “inside-outside” courses that also included Georgetown undergraduate students. In the Summer 2018 semester, we provided 12 courses and the Lecture Series to a group of 48 incarcerated men and women.

The Fall 2018 semester marked our transition to a credit-bearing prison education program, enabling us to offer two Georgetown University courses to a select subset of our Scholars. After a vigorous admissions process, we selected 14 highly-qualified students for our inaugural cohort. In addition to the two credit-bearing courses, we continued to offer 7 non credit-bearing courses and the weekly lecture series to 50 male and female incarcerated scholars. Since 2018, we’ve had a total of over 50 students in our credit-bearing cohorts and over 100 students in our non-credit-bearing cohorts. We’re currently underway with our Fall 2019 semester, which now includes 3 credit-bearing courses, 6 non-credit courses, our weekly lecture series, and a writing center.

The purpose of the Scholars Program is to improve the lives of all District residents by educating incarcerated citizens and preparing them to pursue a positive role in their home communities when they return. Our mission is backed by a large body of evidence suggesting that college education in jails and prisons reduces recidivism and costs, creates safer communities and stronger families, and greatly enhances the employment prospects of returning citizens. We hope this program can become a cornerstone of reentry for District citizens.

Georgetown is uniquely positioned to create a strong and successful prison education program: we have extensive and distinguished faculty, enthusiastic and committed students, a prime location in proximity to Washington policymakers, and a 30-year history of prison outreach. The Scholars Program also embodies Georgetown’s Jesuit commitment to cura personalis, “care for the whole person,” and charitable values that we “visit the prisoner.”

Georgetown’s commitment to the Scholars Program is a natural fit with the mission of the DC Department of Corrections, under the leadership of Director Quincy Booth. We are confident that Georgetown has a partner institution that understands the value of education and is committed to improving the lives of all District residents.

To support the Scholars Program, please consider making a tax-deductible donation.

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