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University Of Yale And New Haven Celebrates First Degrees Awarded To Prison Inmates

Marcus Harvin has two identification cards.

One shows he is a fellow at Yale College, which is helping him on a track toward law school.

The other shows he is a parolee, just released from the maximum security MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution after spending six years in prison for a highly publicized drunken driving accident that left his two young children injured.

Harvin, who hopes to become a defense attorney someday, was back inside the prison Friday for a graduation ceremony at which he received his associate degree in general studies from the University of New Haven. He and six other men make up the first class to matriculate from a partnership between UNH’s Prison Education Program and the Yale Prison Education Initiative.

“That name, Yale, means so much because I’m from New Haven and to be able to study at Yale and begin studying in prison is unheard of,” said Harvin. “People even think I’m lying sometimes, so I’ll show them my jail I.D. and my Yale I.D.”

Yale partnered with UNH in 2021, giving the student-inmates a path to two and four year college degrees. The program, which offers classes at McDougall-Walker and the federal women’s prison in Danbury, is now part of a consortium that includes 15 schools and prison systems across the country.

“We define our own futures and today is the start of that,” he said. “You learn from the past, but you define your own future. And what happens in your future is going to be your legacy. And I want you to have a really important story to tell.”

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