Behind a fortress wall and razor wire and a few feet away from California's death row, students at one of the country's most unique colleges discuss the 9/11 attacks and issues of morality, identity and nationalism.
They are students at Mount Tamalpais College at San Quentin State Prison, the first junior college in the country based behind bars. The college was accredited in January by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges after a 19-member commission determined a college program held at San Quentin for more than two decades was providing quality education to its students.
Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, the umbrella organization for all U.S. higher education institutions said, “This is a profound step forward in prison education.”
The college has a $5 million yearly budget and is funded by private donations. The staff is paid and there are also volunteers.
49-year-old Derry Brown said of his English 101 class, “I wish I had learned this way coming up; instead I was in special ed my whole life.”
Brown said, “There is joy in learning, that’s why I want to continue,” he said. “Even when I get out, I’m going back to college.”