A Tufts chapter of the nonprofit Petey Greene Program, an organization focused on supplementing education in local correctional institutions with the help of graduate and undergraduate students, will make its debut on campus this fall.
Amanda Borquaye, who hopes to open conversation about the lack of educational support systems in prisons, will head the project as part her Tisch Scholar project.
“Hopefully bringing this program here would facilitate more dialogue about incarcerated people,” Borquaye, a sophomore, said. “It’s easy to pretend that they don’t matter, that they don’t exist, but thats really not true.”
According to the organization’s website, the Petey Greene Program is named after television and radio talk show host Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene Jr., who worked as a disc jockey in a correctional facility while serving time for an armed robbery. Following his release, Greene became a prison reform activist and founded the Ralph Waldo Greene Community Center and Efforts for Ex-Convicts. Greene’s close friend, Charlie Puttkammer, founded the Petey Greene Program following Greene’s death in order to continue his legacy postmortem.
Borquaye said she was introduced to the Petey Greene Program through the multi-year Tisch Scholars program run through the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service. The leadership program empowers students to improve the communities surrounding Tufts by collaborating with local organizations.
“I heard about the project proposal and thought it sounded really interesting, so I decided to take it on,” Borquaye said.
Currently, there are only nine students involved with the Tufts Petey Greene Program, though there are over 80 people on the Tufts chapter’s e-list, according to Borquaye. Students selected as tutors will attend four one-hour workshops, as well as an on-site orientation, to prepare for the program.
According to the Regional Field Manager for the Massachusetts Petey Greene Program Eleanor Roberts, Borquaye and her fellow students will be working as tutors for inmates at the Middlesex Jail and House of Correction. The majority of inmates at this particular Middlesex county jail are in their pre-sentencing phase or have been convicted at a jail level, Roberts said.
Sheriff of Middlesex County Peter Koutoujian said the Middlesex jail is looking forward to welcoming the Petey Greene Program next month when the students begin.
“Research has proven time and again that individuals who participate in educational programs while incarcerated have lower rates of recidivism,” Koutoujian told the Daily in an email. “I believe we offer incredible educational and vocational programs in Middlesex County, and the tutoring services offered by the Petey Greene volunteers will help us enhance those programs.”
According to Roberts, the program‘s main goal is to give convicted felons the opportunity to integrate back into society as functioning members.
She explained that the ideal students for assisting in high school-level classes are college students who have access to high-quality education, such as those at Tufts.
“It seems like Tufts has a really active student body, which I think is really quite unique,” she said. “[T]he excitement surrounding [the Petey Greene Program] might foster a really strong program at Tufts”.
Tufts will become the 18th campus in the Northeast to offer students the opportunity to volunteer at local correctional facilities, according to Roberts.
Borquaye hopes the program will continue to run as a club under new leadership after her project ends this year. According to her, there are discussions about partnering with an additional facility in the spring semester in order to accommodate the growing interest among the student body.
“It’s important that we reach out to these people and [allow] them to come back into society fully functioning,” Borquaye said.