A commencement ceremony was held Monday at the Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution in Enfield, where six incarcerated students graduated with certificates in advanced machine technology.
Proud family members, some wiping away tears, watched as six near-released inmates received their certificates from Asnuntuck Community College. A total of eight students walked in cap and gown at the ceremony held in the Cybulski Community Reintegration Center. Two, released this year, recently transitioned into the community to finish their studies.
One of those was Robert Pratt. He was 16 when he entered prison and 42 when he was released in January. He told the gathered relatives and officials that the program gave him an opportunity to go forward in life.
“It’s just a wonderful feeling,” Pratt said. “The work was hard, but the teachers helped. They helped a lot. Transitioning from prison to going to a college campus was frightening for me. I had been incarcerated for 25 years.”
Governor Dannel Malloy also attended the ceremony along with officials from the state Department of Correction and Asnuntuck. Malloy told the graduating class that he hoped their accomplishment would represent a change in the criminal justice system.
“I hope you feel an obligation to be successful, not just for yourselves,” Malloy said. “Not just for your family who loves you, but for what we’re trying to do to change a history of mass incarceration and a system that, quite frankly, was ultimately a revolving door for incarceration.”
Pratt was one of two students inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and one of the original members of Malloy’s Second Chance program when it started. Pratt said he had his first job interview the next day.