“We aren’t judged by the worst mistake we ever make."
March 2, 2015 4:37 PM Subscribe
The country’s largest state university system says it doesn’t discriminate against former prison inmates. Applicants say otherwise.
Cadwallader had taken classes while behind bars in the Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility near Saratoga Springs, and hoped upon his release that a college degree would get him off the path that had taken him in and out of prisons for eight years.
When he checked the box on the New Paltz application owning up to his felony record, the demands began. The school wanted letters from the prison psychologist, the prison superintendent and his parole officer, and his full criminal record. Cadwallader replied that Mt. McGregor did not have a psychologist and that he never interacted with the superintendent. He submitted letters from his current psychologist, psychiatrist and parole officer, and braced for the screening committee. There, he says, he was grilled about his record — including arrests for misdemeanors and for charges that had been dismissed.
“They kept asking me about my rap sheet,” said Cadwallader. “It doesn’t tell my full story. Those things were done by a person that is no longer me.”
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