Amid all the reports of diminishing opportunity for urban youth, increasing rates of arrests and frustrating levels of recidivism is an encouraging program at the Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility in Bordentown.
Part of the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons Consortium, the program allows certain inmates in seven corrections facilities across the state to take classes for college credit, as Bridget Clerkin reported this week in The Times. Once the inmates are released, their credits are redeemable at Mercer County Community College, Rutgers University and several other state institutions.
It sounds like a good idea on paper.
In application, as Clerkin reported, it’s positively extraordinary.
Young inmates were eager to discuss the reading from the course on medieval history with their teacher, Celia Chazelle, a professor at The College of New Jersey. It was Chazelle, in conjunction with the state Department of Corrections, who pioneered the NJ-STEP initiative.
During a recent class, sculpture, Abelard and Heloise — star-crossed lovers and denizens of the Middle Ages – and the grave of The Doors’ Jim Morrison wound their way into a conversation about Paris and its landmarks.
Later in the class, there was a discussion about the essence of work. That’s a subject very much in the forefront of the NJ-STEP initiative.