The first graduate of Mount Saint Mary College’s partnership with Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, Douglas A. Matthews, was proud to receive his diploma on Saturday, May 21.
Matthews was recently released from incarceration and was overjoyed to be able to attend the ceremony in person. Hudson Link “allowed me to achieve something while I was inside,” he explained. “This was one opportunity that I knew I could use to improve myself and help me to become something different, something better…It allowed me to develop myself and hopefully pass that on.”
The Mount began its partnership with Hudson Link in January of 2020, giving several incarcerated men at Shawangunk Correctional Facility the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Hudson Link provides college education, life skills, and reentry support to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals to help them make a positive impact on their lives, their families, and their communities. It also aims to lower rates of recidivism, incarceration, and poverty.
According to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, 41 percent of people return to prison within three years of release. As of 2020, the recidivism rate for those who have gone through the Hudson Link program was less than 3 percent in two decades.
Sean Pica, executive director of Hudson Link, notes that the program isn’t only about preparing these students for life after prison – it also helps to improve the community.
“Ninety-five percent of people in prison are going to be released one day,” he explained. “So the question becomes, how do we want them back? Do we want them educated and ready for success outside of prison, or do we want them without marketable skills and at risk for re-offending? By offering education to the incarcerated, we are investing in more productive citizens, healthier families, and safer neighborhoods.”