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Maryland DPSCS pioneers a historic partnership between the Division of Correction and the University System of Maryland to offer prison education programs in all Maryland state prisons

April 11, 2024

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[BALTIMORE, MD]: In a groundbreaking initiative, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has taken a significant step towards reforming the correctional system by becoming the first in the nation to formalize a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between a Division of Correction and an entire state University System. This transformative agreement establishes the framework for the implementation of Prison Education Programs within every Maryland state correctional facility, enabling incarcerated individuals to pursue Bachelor's Degrees and credit-based certificates using federal Pell grants.

The University System of Maryland has entered into a historic partnership with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS), marking a collaborative effort to provide educational opportunities to individuals within correctional facilities. This initiative aligns with a broader commitment to empower incarcerated individuals with the tools and skills necessary for successful reintegration into society.

Key Highlights of the MOU:

  • Access to Higher Education: The MOU signifies a commitment to expanding access to higher education for incarcerated individuals. Through the Prison Education Programs, incarcerated individuals will have the opportunity to earn Bachelor's Degrees and credit-based Certificates from any of the 12 universities within the University System of Maryland. This partnership's structure involves curriculum development tailored to the needs and circumstances of incarcerated individuals and the establishment of pathways to continue their education or enter the workforce upon release.

  • Federal Pell Grants: The initiative is bolstered by the utilization of newly reinstated federal Pell grants, allowing incarcerated individuals to pursue education without financial barriers. This innovative approach aims to break down longstanding obstacles to education within correctional facilities.

  • Streamlined Approval Process: The MOU streamlines the federally required approval process for the University System of Maryland institutions to offer degree programs within state prisons. Each university will sign a University Agreement with DPSCS as an addendum to the USM MOU, outlining the specific academic program to be offered at the agreed-upon correctional facility. This establishes a collaborative framework for delivering educational services to incarcerated individuals.

  • Rehabilitation and Personal Development: Education serves as a powerful tool for personal growth and can foster a sense of purpose, improve mental health, and facilitate a positive transformation. The MOU underscores the commitment of both the University System of Maryland and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to equip individuals with the skills and qualifications needed to secure employment upon release.

  • Workforce Development: By providing education and training that align with workforce needs, prison education programs not only benefit the individuals participating but also the broader economy. It helps address skill shortages in various industries and ensures that once released, justice-impacted individuals can contribute positively to society.

  • Cost Savings: Investing in prison education programs can lead to substantial cost savings for the state. Reducing recidivism results in fewer people returning to prison, which can significantly decrease the monetary and social equity costs associated with incarceration.

Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Carolyn J. Scruggs thanks University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay A. Perman for the partnership that led us to this historic milestone. "We are beyond thrilled to announce this milestone. This historic step puts us closer to ensuring our incarcerated population can improve their lives with education," said Secretary Carolyn J. Scruggs. "The Department is hyper-focused on ensuring access to education at any educational level in every prison in the state but also to impart on them the skills necessary so they can gain an income and support their families as they reenter society," added Secretary Scruggs.

University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay A. Perman praised the partnership. "We're so excited to be partnering with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services on this historic agreement," said USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman. "At the University System, we believe that the foundational aim of higher education is to improve the human condition and serve the public good. This partnership is unmatched in advancing these goals. By allowing more incarcerated people to access college and to put their education to work after release, we're not only expanding opportunities for these students, we're strengthening the communities they return to."

This historic collaboration between the Division of Correction and the University System of Maryland exemplifies Maryland's dedication to fostering positive change within its correctional system. The MOU sets the stage for a transformative approach to rehabilitation through education, is a significant step forward in addressing reintegration challenges, and offers incarcerated individuals a pathway to academic achievement and a brighter future. By pioneering such a comprehensive educational framework, Maryland's MOU can serve as a model for other states to follow, setting a precedent for how correctional institutions can collaborate with academic entities to provide meaningful education and training opportunities to those in prison.

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