HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Two Holyoke Community College professors have started a program called Western Mass Core, which provides educational opportunities for incarcerated individuals.

“We facilitate a pathway both from jail – from incarceration – to campus, or we work with students who have had experience with incarceration while they are students at HCC,” said Nicole Hendricks, HCC Professor, co-founder of Western Mass CORE.

As a result of Western Mass Core, incarcerated individuals can not only take classes, but avail themselves to important resources to find housing, food assistance, financial aid and career counseling.

“There are community members and institutions in the valley that are here to support them,” added Mary Orisich, HCC Professor, co-founder of Western Mass CORE.

The goal of the program is to set people up for future success, both personal and financial. A recent study has shown that individuals who participate in jail-based education programs are 43 percent less likely to be re-incarcerated.

“We had a student who began the class on the inside and was released mid-class, this student is now in campus, taking classes in the human services,” said Alethea Melanson, senior staff assistant, Western Mass CORE.

Western Mass Core founders say this pathway to education will work to change the relationship between socio-economic conditions and incarceration.