Professors at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Maryland are helping incarcerated men advance their education.

In the fall of 2022, Bowie State University became the first HBCU in Maryland to offer a bachelor’s degree program at a correctional facility, per The Baltimore Banner.

At the Jessup Correctional Institution, men are taught subjects such as math, science, and reading by professors and instructors. The program’s goal is to help give the students another opportunity to excel in life.

Bowie State University is able to provide education opportunities to them thanks to the help of the Second Chance Pell Grant. It makes federal financial aid available to around 760,000 incarcerated students in 2023 — leading to 48% of formerly incarcerated people less likely to return to prison.

“This program is important to every citizen of Maryland because 90% of those who come in come back out,” Charles Adams, chair of Bowie State’s department of criminal justice, told the outlet. “It’s far more damaging to release someone who is ill equipped.”

Among the students is Damon McDuffie, who prior to being a part of the program didn’t have set long-term goals for himself.

“I was just doing day by day,” McDuffie said. “I just decided to take a bigger step in furthering my education and just trying.”

Now, the 27-year-old shared that following his graduation from the program, he will create a youth mentorship program.

While a number of the students have been engaged in learning, the outlet notes that the group along with instructors have vocalized that there’s a need for additional classes, more tutoring time, access to online research journals, and more people to teach.

According to Adams, Bowie State University is “‘aggressively’ seeking external funding and working to hire more staff, like adjunct professors.”

In addition, a pilot program for incarcerated women is set for fall 2023.