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Baylor Women's Correctional offering path to college education for a second year

Rachel Sawicki
Delaware Public Media
Women at Baylor can enroll in several different educational programs to earn a GED, get vocational training, or earn a degree from Delaware Tech.

Delaware is entering a second year of second chances through the Second Chance Pell Experiment, a nationwide program that waives federal regulations prohibiting inmates from receiving federal grants.

The program is already making a difference for women at Baylor like Irene Hollis, who is working on getting an Associates degree in Human Services.

“Human Services is really what a lot of us are interested in because we have been through that in our lives," Hollis says. "And we want to be able to go back and give back to our communities.”

Hollis says she would be lost without the program, with no plan after release.

“I just want people to understand how much of a difference education makes for someone here,” she says.

Rachel Sawicki
Delaware Public Media
Irene Hollis, Second Chance Pell student at Baylor Women's Correctional Institution.

The Department of Correction is also working on other programs, like the HOPES initiative, which connects residents with employers of community based programs.

Dwight BoNey is a teacher at Baylor and says inmates can do interviews while they are still incarcerated.

“We're working on actually working on a zoom session once a week so that we can kind of start the program, work on soft skills, work on developing some of the things before they get released, and then actually officially start the program.”

Hollis says the program and its teachers helped her to realize her full potential, and education may be the key to reducing recidivism.

Director of Adult and Prison Education Maureen Whelan says the Department of Corrections is working with the Department of Labor to offer more apprenticeships and vocational training.

“That does become a screening for what kind of jobs that are out there, though there are a plethora of jobs out there right now and not enough people, but still having that, incarcerated people have a stigma before they even show up at the door about being able to get a job," Whelan says. "So the more things we can give them on the inside is going to give them an increased opportunity to be able to get employment.”

Three dozen DOE teachers are embedded in prison facilities and provide classroom and vocational education to hundreds of incarcerated people every year, and 750 are currently enrolled in one of Delaware’s Prison Education programs.

Those who graduate from the Second Chance Pell initiative in Delaware receive their degree from Delaware Technical Community College.

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.