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At the Boston Pre-Release Center, operated by the Massachusetts Department of Correction, a Baker-Polito Administration pilot program was launched in March to help inmates nearing release or parole to gain knowledge and skills that will help them to reenter society, and avoid the criminal justice system.

On Tuesday, May 10, Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito, and members of the cabinet visited the School of Reentry in Roslindale, to tour the facility and engage with inmates. The program provides twenty-five men preparing to reenter their communities an all-inclusive service model that encompasses education, vocational training, counseling, job preparation and personal development. Beyond academic skills, the program instills in enrollees the motivation to make real, lasting changes in their lives.

According to Ben Thompson, the assistant undersecretary for re-entry who championed the program, most inmates enter prison with a third-grade math level and a sixth-grade reading level, unaware of computer programs such as Excel and PowerPointAll the inmates know “how to surf the internet,” but almost none knew the slideshow presentation computer program PowerPoint or the spreadsheet program Excel, said Alan Spencer, director of workforce development in the office of public safety. (Statehouse News Service)

Students receive six hours of daily instruction with the expectation of additional evening studies in preparation for a High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) and discipline for further post-secondary education. Graduates will receive college credits ranging from 6-9 credit hours toward HiSET testing, remedial coursework and technology training through partnerships with Bunker Hill and Roxbury Community Colleges.

“The students selected for the inaugural class of this school have demonstrated a commitment to leaving their pasts behind,” said Lt. Governor Polito. “We are likewise committed to the opportunities they have for success by providing effective programming like this to help them accomplish their goals.”

As the Springfield Republican reported, the visit was emotional for many, including a first-time offender from Brockton:

The inmate said he has two children — 3 and 8 years old — and he doesn’t want to come back to prison.

“For me, this is the perfect opportunity to show them that even though I was a failure in life, I can do something for them,” the man said.

Gov. Charlie Baker looked back at the man. “Nobody ever succeeds at anything who doesn’t fail,” Baker said. “If you take a test and you fail it, and you take it again and you fail it, and you take it again and you pass, you passed the test.”

Baker motioned to himself and to a crowd that included Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, three cabinet secretaries, a sheriff, teachers, journalists and a priest. “All of us screwed something up at some point many times along the way,” Baker said. “It just happens. I hope you realize that life is a movie, not a photo, and those frames are ultimately up to you.”

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