NewsChannel 9 got an unprecedented visit to Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus in Seneca County, a maximum security prison for men.
We were given rare access inside the facility as 16 inmates completed their Associate Degrees through Cayuga Community College.
Of the 16, nine graduates became the first class to complete a certificate of Liberal Arts from Cornell University.
“What today means in spite of the struggles and adversities and nay-sayers, it shows that once one’s mind is made up with a can do attitude and its iron clad success is there and right before you,” said graduate Jeffrey Berkley.
A team of professors teach inside the prison, every week during the spring, summer and fall. They teach without Internet and access to an academic library to the inmates accepted to the program.
“There are requirements to have a GED or diploma and a perfect conduct of record set by the Department of Corrections those individuals make it to the building where we conduct an entrance exam and its hard and we have an acceptance rate of about 10 percent,” said the executive director of Cornell’s Prison Education program Robert Scott.
Cornell has one of the largest prison education programs in the country.
Across the state, several schools offer courses for Associates, Bachelors and even Masters degrees for inmates in New York State all funded by private dollars– not the state.
John Colvin, the Superintendent of Five Points, sees just how those dollars go to work.
“There’s always an anti-social culture in prison, influences that you’re gang guys, tough guys that draw attention…but here all of a sudden you have lifers and long-termers talking about classic literature and how that affects our society,” said Colvin.
Those conversations led to the inaugural graduation for the collaborative program at Five Points. It took many of the graduates three to five years to complete.
Some of them will be able to use their degrees when they get out.
Others who might not get out, say they will use it to help others behind prison walls.
To learn more about the program, click here.