Monica Szakacs — News Writer
From orange jumpsuits to books, paroles in the Greater New Haven area who have been previously convicted of a felony will have the opportunity to better themselves through higher education.
Southern will be implementing immediate construction for an additional wing onto Engleman Hall by the end of April 2012 for a program called New Beginnings and Parolees.
This was an initiative that was on the table, secretly, between former Interim President Stanley Battle, Connecticut State University System Board of Trustees, Gov. Dannel Malloy and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, for the past two years.
“Not knowing if the project would go through and how the public would react without all the details worked out are reasons why we didn’t go public with our proposal,” Malloy said.
For the first semester, Southern President Mary Papazian said there will only be 140 parolees that participate as a test run group for fall 2012. The focus during the summer will be construction on the new wing in order for it to be ready come fall.
As part of a work study program, the parolees will work on campus as desk workers in resident halls and the student center, mail services, and they will also work under Chartwells in Conn Hall and the student center food court.
“Students and parents shouldn’t worry about safety,” Papazian said. “We have campus police already patrolling campus, and additional security guards that will be hired through the state will constantly be present in the new wing, as well as in the student center and Conn Hall.”
Parolees will be picked up by vans, which will be funded through the state, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Classes will run from 8 a.m. to noon, and then they will work from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
“The 140 guys will be split up into four groups of 35,” Papazian said. “There will be four adjunct professors in different subjects, and every hour the groups will rotate. For the first semester, they will have English 110, mathematics 095, history 110 and introduction to computers and applications.”
If the group of 140 parolees is successful with the first semester, then the school board will decide how many more parolees will be added to the program along with how many new adjunct professors will need to be hired. Once the groups have gone through their general university requirement courses, they will be allowed to pick a major and enter classes with all other students.
If the once-convicted felons meet university grade standards, they will also be allowed to try out for all campus sports and participate in campus clubs and organizations as all other Southern students.
“We shouldn’t discriminate and tell these guys, ‘Hey we don’t trust you because of some mistakes in your past,’ so I think interacting with the campus community will be a great way to break down barriers and stereotypes,” Malloy said.
For respect and concern for students and faculty however, no parole that has been convicted of murder or rape will be allowed to participate in the program.
Under the terms and contracts, if parolees graduate they are eligible for their parole to be discontinued and career services will help place the men in jobs they have received a degree in.
“All parolees get a second chance to redefine themselves,” DeStefano said.