Jan. 15, 2019
by WGME WARREN (WGME) — Twenty inmates at the Maine State Prison graduated from college Tuesday, complete with cap and gown.
It was a celebration filled with pomp and circumstance, and in the middle of it all was Leo Hylton.
“I’ve been incarcerated 10 and a half years now,” Hylton said.
Hylton is now serving more than 50 years for a violent home invasion.
“I was a foster kid from 10 to 18 so I wanted to work with at-risk youth,” Hylton said. “Then I got arrested the day I was supposed to earn my GED.”
But Tuesday, his label went from “inmate” to “graduate.”
“It’s exciting, everyone who comes today has an opportunity to see that even though we’re locked up, we’re more than the crimes that we committed, we’re more than the worst choice that we made in life,” Hylton said.
The University of Maine at Augusta started their program at the Maine State Prison back in 2006, awarding more than 100 degrees so far.
“We can’t change the past, what we can do is we can work for a more productive future,” Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said.
The state hopes by helping these inmates better themselves behind bars, it will lower their chances of returning once released.
“Our justice system depends upon on the idea of rehabilitation, we want individuals, once they have served their time, we want them to get back out and be productive,” Frey said.
And with the help of the Doris Buffett Sunshine Lady Foundation, Leo Hylton and 19 others now hold a degree.
“I thank god for Doris Buffett, because she funded it, she helped fund my education,” Hylton said. “This is something that no one can take from me, this is something I will have for the rest of my life.”
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