By Wendy Moya
LOS ANGELES, CA – Jillian Beck, writer for Cal State LA Newsroom, described the graduation ceremony of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students at Cal State LA, made possible through Cal State LA’s Prison B.A. Graduation Initiative.
Beck said the program was supported by former President Obama, former Governor of California Jerry Brown, and current Governor of California Gavin Newsom and it endorses the notion that people in prison deserve a second opportunity to contribute something positive to society.
She made it a point to list the number of skills their Bachelor Degree in Communication taught them, namely “critical thinking capacity, public speaking abilities, and writing skills.” All of these skills can be widely applied, giving graduates a number of options for their post-degree lives, Beck said.
According to Beck, some of the recent graduates have gone on to apply to master’s programs, begin businesses, or work with non-profit organizations, demonstrating what access to education can do for a population.
The graduation was attended by the graduates’ loved ones as well as Cal State LA staff and administrators and staff from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Beck points out that key figures during a typical graduation ceremony were present at the ceremony held in the prison yard and gave congratulatory speeches dedicated to the recent graduates, including Cal State LA Provost and Executive Vice President Jose A Gamez and the Department of Communication Studies chair, Professor David Olsen.
“Cal State LA’s pioneering prison education initiative is a collaboration between the university’s Center for Engagement, Service, and Public Good, the Department of Communication Studies…and the College of Professional and Global Education,” said Beck.
The first graduates of the program, she says, had their life sentences reduced or were liberated due to changes in the law.
Beck emphasized that graduates look forward to the changes brought upon their lives by this program and what it could mean for their futures.