“You have to show people trust and respect. We all make mistakes.”
The first time James Farrin became interested in the prison system was in 1958, when he was a Princeton University senior writing a thesis. The second time was long past his undergraduate days, but the outcome is changing lives and shedding new light on America’s criminal justice system.
In 2008, Farrin cofounded and became executive director of the Petey Greene Program, which recruits college and graduate students to tutor incarcerated individuals in prisons, jails and juvenile detention centers. What kicked off with about 25 Princeton students teaching inmates in one prison grew into a nonprofit that now counts 715 volunteers from 32 colleges. In the last academic year, the program teamed with 37 correctional facilities in eight states.
The program has helped thousands of inmates pass their high school equivalency exams and take college courses — accomplishments crucial for inmates in setting a new direction for themselves. According to a 2013 study by the Rand Corporation, inmates who participate in an educational program are up to 43 percent less likely to reoffend and return to prison. And they’re also more likely to find a job after their release.
“I got into giving back late in my life,” says the 81-year-old Farrin, whose corporate career included a stint in international marketing for Colgate-Palmolive Co. and management roles at other large companies. “I’ve never felt more satisfied.”