In an environment that places severe limitations on self-determination, University Beyond Bars cultivates healthy leadership roles for prisoners through our Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC). We have a PAC at both program sites: the Washington State Reformatory (WSR) and the Minimum Security Unit (MSU). Each committee is comprised of UBB students who have demonstrated a continued commitment to UBB's work and mission. The PACs meet weekly with UBB staff and play a prominent role in decisions related to course offerings and organizational goals.
our Prisoner Advisory Committee
Devon has been a student with UBB since 2004. In addition to pursuing his Bachelor of Specialized Studies, Devon has worked as a UBB Teaching Assistant and tutors students in the UBB College Prep Math courses.
"UBB has given me more than just an opportunity to learn and pursue my degree, it has allowed me to help others and find satisfaction in seeing them succeed. I am confident that UBB will continue to transform the hearts and minds of us all."
Steve is a longtime student with UBB. In addition to his coursework, Steve is a published writer and was recently awarded first place by PEN American Center in 2014 for his work, Son of a District. He is an accomplished painter and many of his paintings have sold at UBB art shows.
"UBB is an engine of change chugging within the junkyard. It is impossible to overstate the shift in thinking that takes place in a prisoner's mind once he has been enriched with the potential found in higher learning. A real future has become conceivable, instead of just a dream for someone else."
Before joining UBB Chris never thought he would pursue a college degree because he dropped out in ninth grade. Since 2010, UBB’s staff, teachers, and students have helped him exceed his own expectations, and he is now pursuing his Associate degree. Chris is also an accomplished self-taught artist who creates unique, Native-American inspired crafts which he often donates to UBB — his way of giving back to the program that has given so much to him.
"UBB has provided me the opportunity to explore education on a level in which I never have before: pushing myself in an area I had given up on long ago. By putting myself back into an educational environment, I have found an extreme amount of confidence within myself and in what I can accomplish."
Jayson has been with UBB since 2013. Jayson started with UBB at MSU, where he completed College Math Prep and English 101, and when he arrived at WSR in 2014, he quickly re-enrolled in UBB and continued with credit coursework. By the time he releases in July 2016, Jayson will have completed 10 college courses and earned nearly 50 credits. He is already working on his transfer to a Bachelor’s program at a four-year university and is interested in a career in software development.
"UBB is the single life-changing program offered to prisoners in Washington State."
Noel was the first UBB student to earn his Associate of Science degree. His involvement on UBB’s PAC has helped him develop an interest in non-profit management.
"Being part of UBB and the Prisoner Advisory Committee has shown me that I am a good leader. I would love to take the skills I have learned here to the community."
Felix has been a part of UBB since the beginning. During this time, he has been teaching himself Japanese and helps with UBB’s Japanese courses. Felix is currently working toward a Bachelor of Specialized Studies and enjoys psychology, English, evolutionary biology, and mathematics.
"I believe strongly in the merits of education and find it vital to the success of prisoners both within and without prison."
Michael's involvement with UBB started at the Washington State Reformatory. In December 2013, he transferred to the Minimum Security Unit (MSU) where he was a founding member of the MSU Prisoner Advisory Committee. His leadership has helped the MSU program expand from 12 students in the first semester to over 50 students by the third semester.
"Together, the UBB faculty, staff, and teaching assistants inspire us to set an example for other prisoners and future students. Prisoners need and want programs like UBB, which remind us that with hard work and dedication we can fulfill our educational dreams."
Jeff has been a student with UBB since 2008. He earned his Associate of Arts degree in Spring 2013.
"UBB is responsible for cultivating a new way of thinking and changing the prison culture that goes against the norm of the stereotypical, negative prison environment. The classrooms are filled with culturally diverse groups of men—men who normally would not have an opportunity to interact or discuss social issues."
A UBB student since 2008, Joshua is only a few courses away from an Associate of Arts degree with an emphasis in Arts and Humanities. After earning his Associate degree, he plans to work toward a Bachelor of Specialized Studies in Literature and Comparative Religion.
"Education is the key to bettering oneself, not only in prison, but in general."
Arthur has been involved with UBB since 2008. He is a published, award-winning author whose writings are used in college courses at Dartmouth College, Boston University, and many other academic institutions across the country. He is adamant about the best path to positive change:
"The single most important tool for personal reform is education."
Jarrelle has been a faithful and ardent supporter of UBB since he was 18. Since then, he has taken at least two UBB classes every semester, ranging from Sociology, Astronomy, and Music Theory. He describes UBB as fostering his love for higher education:
"Thanks to UBB I've been able to still attend college with the rest of my friends on the outside. It is within the UBB classrooms that I have grown, developed, laughed, and discovered my true purpose in life."
In March 2014, Spencer was one of five inside speakers selected to give a talk as part of TEDx "Turning Keys" at the Washington State Reformatory. His TEDx talk "Armed or Equipped?" addressed how higher education equips prisoners with an equation for success. In Fall 2014, Spencer transferred to the Minimum Security Unit, where UBB had just expanded. He now tutors students in math and is on the MSU Prisoner Advisory Commitee. Upon his release, he plans to transfer to the University of Washington.
"I’ve witnessed the power of education to transform lives for the better – for myself and for others. This has solidified my belief in and passion for a life steeped in continual education."
Tim has been incarcerated for over 30 years, and during this time he has discovered the tremendously life-changing value of education. He is a published author and a proud member of the UBB’s PAC.
"Education liberates our minds beyond the oppression and prepares us to become something more than the six-digit numbers that have all too often replaced our names."
Bill has been involved with UBB for more than ten years. He has facilitated the UBB College Prep Math, Intermediate Algebra, Small Business Management, and Human Geography courses and has also given lectures on oceanography as part of UBB’s Arts and Lecture Series. Bill holds a Bachelor of Science and Masters in Business Administration.
"UBB is an extremely valuable and effective program. I've seen men who have only experienced discouragement, negativity, and failure find pride of achievement, confidence, and a new hope due to UBB courses."
A UBB student since 2006, Atif works as a UBB Teaching Assistant and tutors students in calculus, composition, literature, and philosophy. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Specialized Studies in modern literary criticism and theory. Atif's work has been published in The Walrus, Best Canadian Essays 2012, Radical Teacher, and Philosophy Imprisoned.
"UBB instructors, each in their own way, embody the many kinds of curiosity, care, and imagination that lend grace to learning and dignify life in difficult circumstances."
If not for UBB, Voty would have never imagined himself being able to help students succeed at college courses he once struggled with.
"UBB has transformed my perceptions on life. Education, to me, is equality, justice, and liberty for all. It enlightens me in this crude, dark world, allowing me to see it for what it really is. Having an education provides me with infinite possibilities. It has empowered me to become an asset to the community and it gives me the chance to pursue my dreams of helping those who are less fortunate."
Rogelio is eager to help UBB students through his participation on the PAC. He is enrolled in UBB’s College Prep classes and strives to grow in all academic areas.
"A degree will give me the knowledge I need to benefit my family, my community, and myself. "
Anthony is one of UBB's first four students and a founding member of the Prisoner Advisory Committee. Anthony facilitates the College Prep Math courses and tutors students in all levels of math, from pre-algebra to calculus. Anthony earned his Associate of Arts degree in December 2011 and is now working on his Bachelor degree.
"UBB has been a life changing experience. To have people who don’t know you but believe in you more than you believe in yourself is enlightening. Through UBB I have learned how important a role I can play in helping others realize their worth."
TEDx “Turning Keys” at Monroe Correctional Complex
March 15, 2014
In Spring 2014, the Monroe Correctional Complex hosted a TEDx event entitled “Turning Keys” to discuss prison reform. Among the speakers selected to give a TEDx talk were five prisoners. All five speakers are UBB students. View the videos.