EJP graduation ceremony demonstrates how UI’s prison program paying off

by Noelle McGee   /   May 25, 2016

Education Justice Project convocation

 University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen with Bernard Patton

University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen in attendance at 2016 Education Justice Project convocation

As a teenager growing up on Chicago’s South Side, Bernard Patton saw many peers drop out of school. At 16, he did, too.

“I was running the streets,” said Patton, who was bright but didn’t see the value of an education.

Things have changed drastically for Patton, who ended up in the state’s prison system but has turned his life around. He earned an associate of science degree and is now taking upper-level classes through the Education Justice Project (EJP), a comprehensive college-in-prison program that provides academic programs to students incarcerated at the Danville Correctional Center.

Patton spoke for the first time publicly at the Education Justice Project convocation, which was attended by University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen and more than 50 of Patton’s fellow students.

“Now, I don’t know the limits of what I can achieve,” Patton told The News-Gazette.

Funded through grants and donations, the Education Justice Project received the 2015-16 Campus Award for Excellence in Public Engagement. It has expanded from two not-for-credit reading groups in 2008 into a program that now offers for-credit 300- and 400-level courses in writing, math, science, history, education, and business, which students can transfer to four-year institutions upon their release.

Two EJP students who have been released have written a comprehensive guide about re-entry into society for the corrections department, after seeing the need.

“They said, ‘We are University of Illinois students,'" said Rebecca Ginsburg, director of EJP and an associate professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership. “If there’s something we know how to do, it’s research, research and writing … and they rolled up their sleeves and got to work.”

View the entire article from The News-Gazette.

Photo by Steve Sherman for The News-Gazette.