When someone is serving time as an inmate, they often come to accept their condition and their circumstances, Albert Yancey said.
“Its easy to get caught up in the everyday movements of prison,” Yancey said. “You get comfortable with the slamming of iron gates. You get comfortable with lockdowns.”
But earning an education can help inmates change their focus and look forward to an improved life, he said. Yancey was giving the Commencement address for TDCJ graduates during the ceremony on April 9.
“You sacrificed your time, your energy and your focus to get this degree,” Yancey told them. “The diploma you received, it reminds you of what you can put your mind to and accomplish. Whatever you put your mind to, you can do it.”
Fifteen graduates were honored with their Associates Degree from Alvin Community College after several years of remaining dedicated to their education despite difficult circumstances. Several inmates also received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
TDCJ studies have shown that the rate of recidivism, or chance of return to prison, greatly declines as an offender’s educational level increases. Offenders, on average, have less than a seventh-grade education.
“Today, be proud of the man you’ve become,” said UHCL graduate Will Moseley during his Commencement address. “Today, you have secured your future.”
ACC offered the first college classes to inmates at the Texas Department of Corrections in 1965. ACC was the first institution of higher education in Texas to offer college programs at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In 2016, ACC was one of 67 colleges throughout the United States to be chose to participate in the Second Chance Pell program, which provides grants to inmate students.
Prior to enrolling in college while in prison, each inmate must first earn their high school diploma or GED, and pass all the same entrance tests required for every college student.
Yancey graduated from ACC while in TDCJ and has since been released. He has started his own business as well as a ministry to help at-risk youth.
“True vision is what you see for your life and your future in the darkest moment,” he told the graduates. “You must learn how to fail and win at the same time.”
Earning an education is an important step in building their lives and no student should stop learning once they graduate, Yancey said.
“No longer should you say that ‘I can’t’ because it’s been proven in adverse circumstances that you can,” he said.