On a Tuesday in late May, Antonio Franklin sits in a makeshift classroom in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, ten years to the day after he stepped foot inside Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Norfolk to serve nine years for aggravated assault against a cop. Pencil in hand, he looks on as instructor Ismail Abdurrashid fills a whiteboard with algebra equations. A year ago, Franklin left prison. Now, at 31, he’s brushing up on high-school-level math with about a dozen other classmates, preparing to attend Bunker Hill Community College in the fall.
Many of Franklin’s classmates dropped out of high school, and many were incarcerated. Some, like Franklin, earned their GED while serving time; some are taking this math class to prepare for the corresponding HiSET, or High School Equivalency Test (a new test, similar to the GED). Some, also like Franklin, ended up in prison after being on the streets, engaging in gunplay and selling narcotics. All of them are now being paid to attend class and go to college.