Rutgers student discusses education program for incarcerated individuals
An initiative known as New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons (NJ-STEP) began in 2013 to bring college education to incarcerated individuals.
Dameon Stackhouse, a School of Social Work graduate student, was one of the individuals who participated in the program during its initial years, according to an article from CBS News.
NJ-STEP began as a partnership between the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Raritan Valley Community College and Rutgers University to offer associate’s degrees, according to the article. The program expanded to include bachelor’s degrees later on.
Stackhouse, who was formerly incarcerated at East Jersey State Prison, said the program reduced problems within the prison because those who were enrolled in NJ-STEP were focused on using the opportunity to further their education, according to the article.
"It brought all the communities closer together," Stackhouse said, according to the article. "You're talking about individual gangs. Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings working together without any issues."
After spending approximately a decade in prison for a robbery charge, Stackhouse was released early in 2016. He finished his bachelor’s degree at Rutgers University, where he met Elizabeth Torres, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, according to the article.
She said he stood out because he was older than many of her other undergraduate students.
"(Stackhouse) was very soft-spoken,” Torres said, according to the article. “Something about his demeanor is very calming. That's what I remember the most."
As he currently works toward his master’s degree in social work, Stackhouse helps Torres conduct research on autism, according to the article. He said he would like to earn a Ph.D. in psychology, which Torres said she would help him find funding for.
Outside of Rutgers University, Stackhouse works with young people to help them avoid ending up in the criminal justice system and wants to open his own youth center after he finishes his education, according to the article.
He also said he hopes more funding will be allocated for programs like NJ-STEP because they can help incarcerated individuals lead better lives upon exiting prison.
"When you educate individuals on how to be better and productive citizens, you don't have to keep reinvesting in that," Stackhouse said, according to the article.
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