WINDHAM–The Southern Maine Women’s Reentry Center, a minimum-security facility of the Department of Corrections (DOC) held a graduation exercise on May 31, 2019.
During the ceremony, two Associate Degrees and two Bachelor’s Degrees were conferred by University of Maine President Rebecca Wyke. Additionally, Washington County Community College’s Dean of Business and Industry, Nichole Sawyer conferred a Production Technician Certification to one graduate. This rigorous five-course, nationally recognized credential prepares students for positions in high-tech manufacturing settings.
The ceremony included remarks by Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, Randall Liberty and UMA Saco Center Director Daniel Philbrick.
In addition to the degrees conferred to the graduates, two certificates of academic recognition were presented to women who have completed a lengthy and challenging computer coding program, a first of its kind in Maine.
Erica King, Senior Policy Associate at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service delivered the keynote. Ms. King’s career in criminal justice reform and social justice policy has included more than 15 years of providing coaching, training and technical assistance to correctional agencies and populations. Her focus on gender responsive program development, evaluation, and implementation for women has been important for the DOC. The women involved in the graduation exercises have benefited from Ms. King’s work and support, and they were pleased she provided the keynote.
“As a Department, we recognize the immense value of education,” notes Commissioner Liberty, a graduate of UMA himself. “We were thrilled to honor the perseverance these women have shown to transforming their lives through education.”
The Department of Corrections has a long history of partnering with educational organizations to enhance the educational attainment opportunities of offenders.
In 2006 the DOC began the partnership with UMA, starting with a small group of students in the Maine State Prison. “Our relationship with DOC has grown, and rightfully so,” noted President Wyke. “At the heart of UMA’s mission is a commitment to transform the lives of its students, regardless of age or background. This program is a demonstration of our adherence to this mission.”
Speaking on behalf of Washington County Community College, Dean Sawyer indicated that the partnership with DOC helps the offenders turn their education into direct jobs. “Women enrolled in the Production Technician Certification are able to work in the field while finishing their sentence; allowing them to gain valuable on-to-job learning and a direct connection with an employer.”
Representatives from the Vera Institute of Justice, a think tank dedicated to building and improving a justice system that ensures fairness, promotes safety and strengthens communities, were also in attendance.
Coming together as educational partners to celebrate the positive decisions these graduates have made to prioritize a productive future while incarcerated, and upon release, is what the day was all about.