Degrees of Change

Knowledge may not set them free, but Maine inmates are finding it may keep them from going back to jail

Inmate Daniel Roberts of Sabattus embraces Christopher Shumway while receiving his diploma from the University of Maine at Augusta during a ceremony Monday at the Maine State Prison. Each man is serving time for murder and both graduated with honors.

Doris Buffett, billionaire Warren Buffett’s sister, has awarded $100 million in grants to pay the college costs of inmates, including books. Of that, nearly $1 million — just over $28,000 per inmate — has been spent since 2006 to graduate 35 inmates in Maine. (more...)

Story by Judith Meyer, Sun Journal Managing Editor/days
Photos by Kevin Bennett, Bangor Daily News photographer
Above, Linda Baugh of Lewiston holds back tears as she watches her son Sergio Stephen Hairston march in to graduate. Right, Inmates Daniel Roberts of Sabattus, left, and Hairston of Lewiston, right, embrace. Roberts is serving time for the murder of his former girlfriend, Melissa Mendoza, in 2005; Hairston is serving time for the manslaughter of Richard Lessard in 2008. Both men graduated with honors.
Thomas Abbot, a dean at the University of Maine at Augusta, gets screened by corrections officer Angela Smith at the Maine State Prison on Monday before graduation ceremonies.

Eva, daughter of inmate Joseph Billings Rouleau, wipes away tears as her father talks about how his degree from the University of Maine at Augusta will help him to rejoin his family and live the life he wants with his daughter.

Inmate Steven Clark gets a hug from his girlfriend, Tomi Doyle. Clark, who is serving time for murder, graduated with honors. His earliest possible release date is April 8, 2043.
Right, Inmate Sergio Hairston of Lewiston embraces Doris Buffett, founder of the Sunshine Lady Foundation.
Sergio Hairston of Lewiston holds a service puppy that he and other prisoners help to train as visitor David Moulden interacts with the puppy.
Inmates Jon Dyer, left, Jerry Banks, center, and Brandon Brown celebrate getting diplomas. All three men earned college degrees, with honors.
Inmate Steven Clark embraces Doris Buffett, sister of billionaire Warren Buffett, who heads the Sunshine Lady Foundation that made it possible for 14 inmates to receive college degrees from the University of Maine at Augusta. Clark is serving time for the murder of Robert Wagner in 2007.
University of Maine at Augusta President Allyson Handley congratulates inmate Daniel Roberts of Sabattus.
Faculty of the University of Maine at Augusta and University College at Rockland react to inmates' statements about their experiences earning degrees while behind bars at the Maine State Prison on Monday. At the far right is Allyson Handley, president of UMA. Seated next to her is T. Richard Snyder, chairman of the Restorative Trust Project of Maine, who was invited to give the commencement address.