UCO to Offer 4-Year Degree Program to Inmates


Friday, February 20th 2009, 12:34 pm
By: News 9


News9.com

MCLOUD, Oklahoma -- The University of Central Oklahoma will soon offer a four-year degree to inmates at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center. The regents at UCO approved the program Thursday.

Inmate Soson Peterson is using her time behind bars wisely.

"I've been keeping my 4.0 and it's like wow, I don't want to get anything less than an A," Peterson said.

Peterson is serving a 15 year sentence for shooting two people in Tulsa four years ago. She's a few months away from getting her associate's degree and then she plans to move on to her bachelor's.

"Oh man, I'm excited. More challenges for me, and more time to study and get deeper into what I want to learn," Peterson said.

UCO's pilot program allows inmates at Mable Bassett with an AA to obtain a bachelor's in general studies.

The university will send the inmates books and assignments, they'll study, complete them and mail them in for a grade. Inmates will pay for tuition like any other student, but scholarships are available to them.

Right now, 74 offenders at the prison are in a college program. This will allow them to go a step further.

"It is critical in terms of reintegration with our offenders to make sure they have an opportunity to better themselves and have a second hand up once they go back into the communities," said Mabel Bassett Warden Millicent Newton-Embry.

The warden said more than 90 percent will return to the community, and the more educated the inmates are, the less likely it is that they will reoffend.

"It'll help me greatly. I know I won't be in trouble. I won't be back into things I used to do. My knowledge has broadened a little bit," Peterson said.

An organizer for the Rose State College program in the prison said over 10 years, not one person who has completed an AA degree has returned to prison.

UCO is trying this program out for two years. If it works, they may expand it to include more majors and more prisons.