California inmates make as little as eight cents an hour sweeping floors, building furniture, and clerking. If they have an industry job, they can do better, making $1 an hour, or around $100 per month, per CBS News. That's why it took three long years for a group of nearly 800 inmates at Soledad State Prison to amass $32,000–that's $24,000 of their own money, plus an $8,000 donation from outside the prison—which they swiftly gave away.
Jason Bryant, now a former inmate, had been taking part in a prison book club in 2016 with students from Palma School, a private all-boys Catholic school in Salinas, Calif., when they read Ernest Gordon's Miracle On The River Kwai, which tells of prisoners of war who shared everything they had. That gave Bryant and fellow inmate Ted Gray the idea to "help some young man get a head start that a lot of us didn't have," Bryant, 41, tells the Washington Post.
Beginning in the fall of 2016, they set out to recruit others and help a struggling Palma student pay the $1,200 monthly tuition, per CNN. "I think that inherently most people, even those of us who have made the worst decision in our lives, want to be a part of something good," Bryant, who earned three degrees during 20 years behind bars for armed robbery before his sentence was commuted last year, tells the Post.
The money went to Sy Green, whose parents had lost their jobs due to medical emergencies. "I broke down and started crying," Green's father says. Green was just "mind-blown," per CBS.
The 19-year-old graduated last year, largely thanks to the inmates, four of whom attended his graduation, and is now in college. "They put all this effort and all this work into me," he says. "So I have to honor that and carry that legacy on."
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