ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – The Cornell Prison Education Program recently celebrated graduation at Auburn Correctional Facility. The program, which is 20 years old, is a partnership with Cayuga Community College and offers associates degrees in the Humanities to inmates at two New York state prisons.
Getting into the Cornell program requires an entrance exam. For some, that’s the biggest challenge. There are over 15oo prisoners in Auburn. Only about 80 qualified and 12 graduated this year.
Louis Kelly was one of those twelve. He said studying in the Cornell program has been transformative.
“When they see us up here they give us a little more respect,” he said, “They know that we’re not just some dumb individual running around…”
One of Kelly’s classmates is Souvik Basu. Basu, who earned the class’s second highest GPA and its salutatorian, has been in prison for ten years. He said the opportunity to get an education is important but it has carries a responsibility, too.
“It’s always enjoyable to uncover information,” Basu said, “to understand things that you’ve never understood before and to see things differently, always, enjoyable, but, it’s like, what am I going to do with this knowledge, not even what am I going to do, but how am I going to do what I want to do with this knowledge?”
Right then, Basu’s parents arrive and he walks over to talk with them before the ceremony begins.