Through the Center, prisoners at the Cheshire Correctional Institution (CI) and York CI, a men's maximum security prison and Connecticut's only women's state prison, are invited to apply to take accredited Wesleyan courses. The Center’s students are admitted through a rigorous admissions process, including multiple essays and faculty interviews. Over 90 women applied join the inaugural class at York, while nearly 300 men have applied for admission to the Center’s Cheshire campus since 2009.
The Center currently offers five courses each semester at Cheshire CI and two per semester at York CI. Classes are taught by Wesleyan faculty who when bringing their courses from the Wesleyan main-campus change neither the course content nor their expectations of students. Over the past seven academic years, the Center has offered 60 classes in subjects ranging from sociology to biology, political theory to advanced calculus.
Each student enrolls in two classes per semester and attends a corresponding study hall. Students receive individualized attention and academic support from the faculty, staff and volunteers who work with the program. Every study hall is staffed by tutors and teaching assistants who are available to assist students in mastering new material, edit papers and to provide any other necessary support. In addition to the core academic offerings, the Center provides supplemental programming including skill-building workshops, non-credit bearing remedial classes, discussion groups and lectures by visiting professors. The Center has also helped fifteen students transition to life outside of prison. They have continued to pursue higher education at both two and four-year colleges, and obtain gainful employment.
The Center offers numerous volunteer and service-learning opportunities for main-campus students as well. Undergraduates provide essential programmatic assistance in a number of areas, serving as writing tutors and teaching assistants for in-facilty courses and supporting research, development, and communications work on-campus.
By fostering innovative and collaborative learning, the Center offers a dynamic approach to reduce recidivism rates and democratize access to educational opportunity. The Center is a member of the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison.