2 inmates from Jersey City become 1st in country to earn degrees while in county jail


Two inmates from Jersey City became the first to earn their associate degrees from Hudson County Community College while incarcerated earlier today.

Twitter photo.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The two students, Leon Foster and April Rice, have earned their degrees while in custody at the Hudson County Correctional Facility in Kearny through the Academic Workforce Pathway Program.

Foster received his degree in Human Services/Social Work and Rice earned her associate’s in Business Administration. Foster has also earned membership in Hudson County Community College’s international honor society, Phi Theta Kappa.

While a number of prisons in states like California, Georgia and Idaho, have degree programs, Foster and Rice are the first two individuals experiencing incarceration in a county jail in the U.S to earn a degree, county officials said.

Foster is serving time for robbery and conspiracy charges, while Foster is incarcerated for drug possession and prescription distribution, along with resisting and hindering arrest.

The Academic Workforce Pathway Program, launched in September 2021, provides community college classes to more than 50 individuals now serving time at the county correctional facility.

The program allows qualified inmates to earn their associate degree or certification in a wide range of employment-focused concentrations of study and approximately half of the individuals enrolled in the Academic Workforce Pathway Program are participating in this degree track.

The Academic Workforce Pathway Program also provides a Workforce Skills Development Training track that offers community college classes in such areas as basic computer skills, essential business software, supply chain management, and English as a Second Language (ESL).

All students in the program, degree and non-degree, will be further assisted with a life skills training program that HCCC provides in partnership with the respected Jersey City non-profit, Women Rising.

The total annual cost for the two-semester program is $150,000, with funding provided through The Hudson County Reentry Grant.

Entities involved in the Academic Workforce Pathway Program’s interagency partnership include: Hudson County Community College, the Hudson County Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Hudson County Department of Housing and Community Reintegration, the Hudson County/Jersey City Workforce Development Board, the Hudson County Economic Development Corporation, and Women Rising.

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  1. This is wonderful news! ❤️ It’s good to read good news with so much going on in this world. Their accomplishments are making me think, I can do this too, at 51 years old. Congratulations! I pray they will encourage others.

  2. Congratulations to April 🎓And Leon🎓
    No matter what past one has there is always a bright future ahead. I wish you both the very best and pray that things for you both will be better in the near future. Continue each day with a smile and say “I AM SUCCESSFUL NO MATTER WHAT!”