ELIZABETHTOWN — North Country Community College has revived its inmate-education program under a two-year federal grant more than a decade after it was shut down.
The Second Chance Program allows non-violent inmates with fewer than five years left on their sentences to earn a two-year associate degree.
The idea is to improve their chances of finding employment upon release from prison.
UNIQUE TO NCCC
The 120 students now enrolled were chosen from Adirondack Correctional Facility federal prison at Ray Brook and two State Department of Correction and Community Supervision prisons in Malone, Bare Hill Correctional and Franklin Correctional.
Inmates from the maximum-security Upstate Correctional in Malone were not eligible for the program since their sentences are longer than the five-years-or-less requirement.
Classes started Feb. 21 at Adirondack and Feb. 27 at Bare Hill and Franklin, said NCCC President Dr. Steve Tyrell.
North Country is the only two-year college in the State University of New York system to offer the inmate-education program, although several colleges in the City University of New York system participate.
Inmates can pursue a liberal-arts degree in humanities and social sciences, individual studies with a concentration in human services or entrepreneurship management.
“The experiment requires that academic programs offered must be transferable and able to be completed by the student post-release and/or prepares them for a career field where they would not face legal barriers to employment,” Tyrell said.
He recently updated the Essex County Board of Supervisors on the program and plans to speak at the Wednesday, March 15, meeting of the Franklin County Legislature.
The two counties co-sponsor the college, contributing $1,190,000 each in 2016 for operational expenses and another $50,000 each for capital improvements at the campuses in Saranac Lake, Ticonderoga and Malone.
Tyrell said restarting inmate education “allows us to go back to our history. We were one of the best providers for prison-education programs in New York state in the ‘80s and ‘90s.”
That is, until Pell funding for inmates was gutted by Congress in 1994.
The Obama administration resurrected the idea in 2015 to help 12,000 inmates nationwide earn a college education.
Pell will fund up to 160 full-time-equivalent student inmates, Tyrell said.
The U.S. Education Department allocated funding for 67 programs, including the one for NCCC, from a field of 200 applicants.
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