Georgia State University sees first class of inmate graduates

Hard work pays off and that could not be any more true for some graduates from Georgia State University's Perimeter College.

"Our associate degree is really a first step for these students," said Patrick Rodriguez, director of Georgia State University’s Prison Education Project.

Rodriguez says the group of nine graduates is the school’s first class of students to earn a degree while incarcerated.

"Our students are showing what people who are incarcerated are capable of doing," he said. "I think that there's a lot of stereotypes around incarcerated people, but what this does is shines a light on what the possibilities are."

(Georgia State University’s Prison Education Project)

The 60-credit hours of coursework were done at Walker State Prison and taught by Perimeter College faculty. 

All nine graduates had GPAs of at least 3.7. Rodriguez says he knows the benefits of having opportunities like this in prison because he was incarcerated himself.

"This is super important because it provides our students with the opportunity to access a degree that they can then utilize when they come home," he said.

(Georgia State University’s Prison Education Project)

The program began in 2016 and offers college courses at Walker State Prison and Phillips State. It also offers enrichment courses at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta. 

Rodriguez says by 2025 he wants programs in five prisons, and he is calling on other universities to launch programs of their own.

"I believe that we can serve all facilities here in the State of Georgia to begin reducing our incarceration numbers and the amount of people on probation and parole," he said.

(Georgia State University’s Prison Education Project)

Rodriguez says education reduces the chance inmates will end up back in prison.

He says the program already has about 50 more students in the pipeline.