NPEP students toss their caps in the air following the 2023 commencement. Credit: Jim Daley

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.

Tony Triplett leads a procession of NPEP graduates into the auditorium. Credit: Jim Daley
Graduates are greeted by fellow NPEP students as they enter the 2023 commencement. Credit: Jim Daley
Graduates sit in the front row during the Northwestern Prison Education Program’s 2023 graduation at Stateville. Credit: Jim Daley
(From left) NPEP graduates André Patterson, Abdul-Malik Muhammad, and Benard McKinley. Credit: Jim Daley
Professor Jennifer Lackey, the founder and director of the Northwestern Prison Education Program, speaks. Credit: Jim Daley
Evanston mayor Daniel Biss and state senator Robert Peters attended the Northwestern Prison Education Project’s 2023 graduation ceremony. Credit: Jim Daley
Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton at the 2023 NPEP commencement Credit: Jim Daley
Ta-Nehisi Coates delivers remarks at the 2023 Northwestern Prison Education Program commencement. Credit: Jim Daley
Graduate Anthony Ehlers holds a picture of his best friend and former cellmate, James Scott, who died of COVID-19 in 2020. Credit: Jim Daley
Craig Harvey (facing camera) claps with fellow graduates at the 2023 NPEP commencement. Credit: Jim Daley
James Soto acknowledges applause during the Northwestern Prisoner Education Program’s inaugural baccalaureat graduation ceremony. Credit: Jim Daley
Anthony Ehlers (left) and Taurean Decatur show off their diplomas. Credit: Jim Daley
✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

Jim Daley is an investigative journalist and senior editor at the Weekly.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *