The prison system is full of people who have never had access to higher education opportunities. When given the chance to receive a college education, the lives of prisoners can truly be transformed. This is why The Freedom Education Project of Puget Sound (FEPPS) is dedicated to providing college programs for incarcerated women in The Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW).
FEPPS is a part of the Bard Initiative National Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, a national network of universities and colleges that run college-in-prison programs. The team behind FEPPS believes that education prepares incarcerated women to lead thoughtful and productive lives in and out of prison, teaches the skills they need in order to obtain meaningful employment and economic stability upon release, and reduces recidivism, or the chance of re-entering prison after being released.
“Being incarcerated doesn’t remove the desire that is within me to learn and better understand myself, as well as the world I live in. Knowledge is power, regardless of one’s residence,” says one FEPPS student.
The courses taught at WCCW are equivalent to those taught at other accredited universities in Washington. The classes are taught by local professors who have an M.A. or Ph.D. Three semesters of school are offered per year.
The students attend class twice a week over the 14-week semesters, and three weekly study halls are held in which undergraduate students from local universities, as well as other volunteers, can assist students with writing and class assignments. First-time students are prepared through introduction classes and every student earns credit towards an associates’ degree. At the end of the year, there is a proper graduation ceremony held to celebrate the accomplishments of each woman.
The program at WCCW has gone from its original five participants to 200, and in that time, it has been reported by inmates that violent incidents inside WCCW have dramatically decreased. Upon release, the alumni of the program have all gone either to the University of Washington, Bellevue College, Clark College or Eastern Washington University!
“In 2012 I had the opportunity to take a college level course though Freedom Education Project Puget Sound while incarcerated at WCCW. When the word spread that actual college courses would be available, I jumped at the chance,” says Adrianna Taylor, a featured student on the FEPPS website. “Upon release, I received a scholarship from the Rotary of Gig Harbor and the Pride Foundation. I graduated from Bellevue College in June 2015 with High Honors, and I am transferring to the University of Washington to pursue my BA in Sociology.”
Those who attend college while incarcerated are 45 percent less likely to return to prison than those who do not, and it is FEPPS goal to sustain, if not raise, this statistic of success.
Not only does FEPPS want each student to have the opportunity to receive an education, but the organization wishes to increase the personal self-worth of every female prisoner it helps and to contribute to their success and stability after they leave prison.
FEPPS relies on contributions from volunteers. Whether you contribute in the form of a donation or sponsorship, teach a class, give a lecture, or assist a student during study hall, your efforts can help the women at WCCW accomplish more than they ever dreamed of.
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