Rabia Qutab, who transitioned out of prison a year ago, reaped the benefits of one of those efforts. After serving five years at a women’s prison in Texas, she found a program at Howard that allows formerly incarcerated students to gain research experience in a top medical school lab.
The program gave her a chance to build her resume before applying to schools and getting guidance from the program’s founder and director Stanley Andrisse.
"I'm opening doors for people following me, you know? So why not? Because if I don't do it, then how do I expect others to follow that pathway?” asked Qutab.
Organizations like the Tennessee Higher Education In Prison Initiative are trying to make stories like hers more common. In 2021, THEI launched its first four-year degree program with Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee.
"Our brothers and sisters behind the wall are coming home." said Laura Ferguson Mimms, executive director of THEI. "And over the course of three years, 47% will return to incarceration if we continue to do exactly what we've done."
Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C. has seen an increase in enrollment numbers for its prison-to-college initiative.
“We started last summer with 10 students, I am projecting we will probably be well over 140 students by the fall semester," said Vanessa Harris, the initiative’s director.