Valley prison inmates can now earn a Fresno State bachelor's degree

Incarcerated students will receive face-to-face instruction from Fresno State professors.

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Saturday, July 9, 2022
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A new program will allow inmates at Valley State Prison and the Central California Women's Facility to earn a bachelor's degree in social science.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Inmates serving time in Valley prisons will now have the chance to receive their bachelor's degree, thanks to a new partnership.

The program will allow inmates at Valley State Prison and the Central California Women's Facility to earn their bachelor's degree in social science from Fresno State.

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Michael Stephens, an inmate at Valley State Prison, has been taking classes from behind bars for two semesters.

"It's transformative," said Stephens. "I no longer feel like I'm incarcerated."

Now thanks to the partnership between Fresno State and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, those classes will count towards a bachelor's degree.

"Having this opportunity is giving me a purpose for my future," added Stephens. "It's really exciting as well."

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It's an opportunity that many inmates never thought possible.

"I knew I had to get on that waitlist," said CCWF Inmate Lindsey Lang. "I've completed college out on the streets, but I wanted more education."

These Valley institutions had previously offered courses towards an associate's degree, but now inmates can work towards a 4-year degree.

"This gives the opportunity for individuals who are incarcerated to further their careers and start looking at the opportunity and preparing for their release," said Central California Women's Facility Warden Michael Pallares.

Incarcerated students will receive face-to-face instruction from Fresno State professors.

"I find it so inspiring to see the level of dedication and commitment from the students and their interest in really changing their lives and changing the lives of others around them," said Fresno State Professor in Criminology Emma Hughes.

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"It feels like I'm out in the free world just with the education and the opportunity to be in front of the professors face-to-face," said Lang.

The program will serve nearly 30 students at each facility and is funded by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.