On June 22, 2011 a very unique and special graduation commenced in Ossining, New York. It wasn’t in a high school auditorium though, in fact it wasn’t anywhere conventional that one would expect. The momentous occasion occurred at Sing Sing, a maximum-security state penitentiary in Westchester County.
Dozens of inmates were not graduating with degrees in liberal arts or sciences, but rather courses that are designed to help rehabilitate the men both now and when they are eventually released into the general population. The students participated in classes that focused on marriage and parenting. According to the superintendent of the program these classes are designed to help the men retain family ties and learn coping skills for when they are released back into their communities.
The program is provided and funded by the Osborne Association, which is a not for profit organization that is designed to help incarcerated individuals rehabilitate and become productive members of their community when they are released. The Osborne Association’s mission statement says, “The Osborne Association offers opportunities for individuals who have been in conflict with the law to transform their lives through innovative, effective, and replicable programs that serve the community by reducing crime and its human and economic costs.”
One of the vastly overlooked issues in America is how to improve our criminal justice system and lower the recidivist rate for men and women returning to their communities after serving time in the prison system. The programs provided by the Osborne Association are designed to foster a more effective criminal justice system through education. Providing education programs does far more than just help educate men and women in prison. These programs help individuals in the prison system to improve their self-esteem, reconnect with families, strengthen communities, and reduce reliance on incarceration.
There is no doubt that the education provided by the Osborne Association is life changing to the men who have participated in it at the Sing Sing Penitentiary in Westchester County. Hopefully programs like this will be adopted in more penitentiaries throughout the country to promote education to a disenfranchised group who needs it most; inmates seeking redemption.
For more information about the Osborne Association visit http://www.osborneny.org/
Contact the Westchester Education Examiner: Westch[email protected]