WARREN — Fourteen inmates are receiving college diplomas Monday during a ceremony at the Maine State Prison.
Eight of the inmates are receiving associate degrees in liberal arts while six are receiving Bachelor of Arts degrees. The degrees are being awarded by the University of Maine at Augusta, and were earned through the Maine State Prison college program.
The program is fully funded by the Sunshine Lady Foundation, a nonprofit foundation founded by philanthropist Doris Buffett, sister of billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Funding allows instructors from University College at Rockland, which is part of the University of Maine System, to teach classes inside the prison, located in Warren.
The last prison graduation was held in 2011, when nine inmates got degrees.
Inmates who earn college degrees or just take part in the program are more likely to succeed when they’re released from prison, said Deborah Meehan, director of University College of Rockland. All of the inmates who have taken part in the program since Meehan first became involved in 2006 have stayed out of trouble after they were released, she said.
“None of them have been re-incarcerated,” she said.
According to Forbes, every inmate who leaves the system saves the state an average of $25,000 per year.
This year’s commencement speaker is the Rev. T. Richard Snyder, chairman of the Restorative Justice Institute of Maine and a former dean of New York Theological Seminary.
Among those expected to attend are Doris Buffet, Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte and University of Maine at Augusta President Allyson Handly, as well as nearly 70 guests of the graduates.
Maine is one of the few states that still offers a postsecondary program for prisoners.
Early in the 1990s there were 350 postsecondary prison programs in 37 states, according to Forbes. But during a get-tough-on-crime wave, most of the programs were ended. By 2005, only a dozen prisons remained that offered postsecondary programs, the magazine says.