First-Ever Commencement Inside Prison Celebrates 25 Inmates that Earned Bachelor’s Degrees While Behind Bars

There were 37 total graduates, 12 of whom have been released and finished their degrees on campus. Five of those on the outside are now pursuing a Master’s degree.

Twenty-five students, who are incarcerated at California State Prison, Los Angeles County (LAC), just celebrated their commencement ceremony in the prison yard. The program is a partnership between Cal State LA and LAC, which allows incarcerated individuals to pursue a Bachelor of Communication degree.

“Today, an education to me, means freedom, redemption, and opportunity,” said graduate Dara Yin during his speech at the ceremony. “The freedom to create better lives. A redeeming quality in the sense that we can step out of an identity that was destructive and into the person our mothers always meant for us to be. The opportunity to show that we are not our worst decisions.”

The program is California’s first in-person bachelor’s program that takes place within the prison, according to the university. So far, 37 incarcerated students have completed the program, 12 of whom have had their sentences commuted and have since been released.

Those who were released before completing the program from prison finished their bachelor’s degrees on campus and graduated with the entire student body. Five of the graduates on the outside are now completing their Master’s degrees at Cal State LA.

“The power of a college education is about more than just receiving a piece of paper. What this bachelor’s degree encapsulates for these men is hope and transformation,” Taffany Lim, director of the Prison B.A. Graduation Initiative, told CNN. “Their accomplishment has a positive ripple effect on the other men in the prison, their friends, families, and communities. And because of this, we believe that a college education is about breaking the cycle of incarceration.”

Image source: CNN