College Education Behind Bars
Education is freedom.
College Education Behind Bars.
College Education Behind Bars (CEBB) aims to provide education and rehabilitation to persons deprived of liberty to redeem their sentence and repair their lives so that both they and society benefit in strengthened human capacity. College Education Behind Bars improves the employability of inmate students and thereby reduces recidivism. Incorporated with recovery classes, CEBB allows students to gain self-confidence, trust, and accountability, and provides mental health benefits to those in isolated conditions, improving their behavior while they are incarcerated but crucially and remarkably after release. CEBB seeks to develop the incarcerated individual as a whole person. Students take the same courses as those on the main campus and graduate with a degree from the partnering university.
Reny, a forty-year old father of four, had been in jail for three years when he realized he needed to change his life for good. He explains, ”There is no hope inside the jail. The only good thing that happened for us was the establishment of College Education Behind Bars.” He began to study his courses and to take the recovery classes where he learned that he could “begin to heal and move on” because he was willing to open up and share his past. “Total transformation, enlightenment and hope was given to me in that school.” After his arrest his children had stopped attending school, but because of their father’s modeling the value of education, they returned to their classes. Upon his release he accepted that he was an ex-detainee, so initially he took a low-skilled job until he was hired by a law firm as a field ranger. Working there he was able to complete his degree outside the jail. Also, the re-entry program provided him one-on-one mentorship to ensure that he was “willing to follow through [my] commitment to life change” because his mentors listened to him, encouraged him to stay the course, and prayed for him. “They modeled healthy and respectful relationships, helped us to make wise, healthy life decisions through this caring and sharing to keep us out of jail.” Now as a recent graduate who was singularly honored by the University President at graduation, he confesses he was “trash,” but “I am now a decent man. I am so thankful to all of my heroes especially Sir Aland and Atty. Susan Cariaga who are with me up to this moment.” His gratitude led him to admit, “I am not that rich to give anything as return for your kindness, sir, and especially to you, m’am, but I am willing to offer all I have even my life.”
John Madala was a single young man who had been in jail three years after a dispute with relatives. He says his life before was “a total mess; it had no sense of direction.” He did not believe in God and had no faith, felt unloved by his motherer and disappointed in himself for not making things happen in his life. When around others, he felt inferior for being a disappointment and not reaching his dreams and goals, for being a failure in his family and In his community. He admits, “I was nothing” so he gave up on living and decided to commit suicide, but it failed. Going to jail was his turning point. Conditions in jail were hard because there was no space to lie down to sleep and others in jail threatened to harm him physically if he went against what they told him to do. Because he had no relatives to visit him, he had no food and would go for days because no one provided any. Sometimes inmates took pity on him and shared theirs, or he would run errands for them in exchange for food. One day after he was studying in the College Education Behind Bars program, he collapsed so he missed class. After Sir Aland learned about his predicament, he assigned an MCI scholar to prepare food and take it to him in jail Monday through Friday. John recognizes that without that, he may have died without anyone noticing. Whereas he was hopeless before, with his study in the CEBB program he was able to continue his education while incarcerated, to rebuild trust, and to prepare to reenter society. He confesses, “CEBB has given me a second chance to reform, reconcile, repent, and take responsibility for every action.” He credits Sir Ross McClean and Sir Joe Ramsey for being positive role models and teaching him the steps to recovery, so that now he can uphold the highest standards of integrity. He acknowledges that MCI has helped him not only gain a higher education but also to build his character as a person. When his relatives dropped the case against him, he was released from prison, although he wanted to remain in jail to complete his degree. Sir Aland advised him to accept the release and made him an MCI scholar, so he could finish his studies and graduate at the University of Southeastern Philippines. He also received clothes, books, food, and a safe place to live. For his part, he attends the weekly forums and fellowships to learn to become a productive member of society and “to strengthen his spiritual life to keep him from straying.” He explains that the Lord has worked on him to shape his character so that he is no longer ashamed of who he is. He quotes the verse, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me; I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Now he has a job, friends, and a community, and is able to help his family some. He has learned about himself and the reasons he had hurts, pain, and struggles. Now John is in his third year at the University of Mindanao Law School.