While being incarcerated, Luke Scott is fully seizing a new opportunity in California.

At age 60, and while serving time without parole, Scott has earned eight associate’s degrees, and in 2022, a bachelor’s degree in communications, the Los Angeles Times reports. Earning the latter from Sacramento State as an inmate at Mule Creek State Prison came decades after he promised his mother, who passed away in 2011, that he would one day be a college graduate.

Scott is currently at Mule Creek State Prison and is embarking on his next step of higher education. According to the Los Angeles Times, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) teamed up with California State University, Dominguez Hills, in September 2023 to launch a “groundbreaking” two-year master’s program in humanities. 

The pilot program comes after “the decades-long effort nationally and in California to restore higher education opportunities in prisons.” It consists of 33 students including Scott.

The state has also been focused on legislation directed at more rehabilitation and cutting down on recidivism as opposed to the its tough-on-crime policies of the past, per the outlet.

“When I got into the bachelor’s program, it was like my ceiling was raised a little bit,” Scott told the outlet. “But when I got into the master’s program, my belief system in the ceiling went away.”

For the program, which started in the fall, the students access their classes through an online portal via laptops issued by the state, the outlet details. Previously there was a master’s degree program for incarcerated students, but they had to have discussions with their professors and turn in their assignments through the mail.

By 2024, Matthew Luckett, the program’s director, aims for incarcerated students to be taught in person on a limited basis. What’s more, the program is working to make the online portal, where assignments are submitted, more engaging and to improve internet access issues.

“We’re trying our best. This is very much a pilot program,” Luckett said. “We’re kind of feeling our way through the dark right now, trying to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s a process.”