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Former inmate says education saved him

Rochester, N.Y. -- A former inmate added his voice to the debate on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to expand opportunities for college in prison.

While serving more than 30 years in the Attica Correctional Facility, time didn't stand still for Ellis "Bo" Stokely.

It's like Groundhog Day," Stokely said "Every day is the same day. You know nothing different."

At age 23, Stokely was involved in a shootout during a robbery downstate.

Six people were shot.

One died.

Stokely was sentenced to 25 years to life for second-degree murder.

Life as he knew it was over, or so he thought.

While serving time, Stokely was given a chance, through an education program with Canisius College and Genesee Community College, that allowed him to earn not one, but three degrees.

Psychology, business and sociology, Stokely said. It was just really a good experience. Canisius (College), that school really hung in there with us. They sent some of the best professors in.

Cuomo's plan would cost an estimated $5,000 per inmate.

And while many question, why their tax dollars should pay someone else's way, Stokely said he's proof there are benefits to the system.

If they go by when the college program was in existence, then they would see that 1 percent of the people that graduated came back to prison," he said. "That's a great number."

He admitted finding a job at age 64 hasn't been easy because of his past, and he doesn't blame anyone.

But he said hes had opportunities to share his story in hopes of preventing someone else from walking down his path; his story of redemption.

I think it's important people know there's life after this," Stokely said. "You can get through this. You can make a mistake and get back up."

 

 

 
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