On Wednesday, sixteen Northwestern University students received their diplomas in a ceremony that featured author Ta-Nahesi Coates, Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton, Provost Kathleen Hagerty and others. The commencement, which had all the trappings and pomp of a typical graduation—cheering families, dignitaries in academic regalia, and a string quartet—was unique in that it was held inside Stateville Correctional Center, a maximum security prison.
The sixteen graduates were the first cohort in Northwestern’s Prison Education Project, and upon crossing the stage, they became the first class to complete a four-year bachelor’s program from a top-tier university.
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Jim Daley is an investigative journalist and senior editor at the Weekly.