I suspect serving a prison sentence gives one a lot of time to reflect on the past and consider the future outside of the prison walls. At least, that's the hope.

Brandon Brown found himself facing 17 years in prison after he shot and crippled a man in Portland's Old Port in the summer of 2008, according to the Portland Phoenix. He began his prison sentence in 2010.

He started his post-secondary education journey in prison thanks to the University of Maine at Augusta, which offers a prison college program.

Brown said his educational pursuits was a taste of freedom, telling the Portland Phoenix, "I found a level of freedom through [those classes] that I had never even known before prison."

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Brown received an associate degree in 2013 and a bachelor's degree in 2017 with a degree in liberal studies with a focus in history, the Holocaust and human rights studies, according to the Phoenix. It was during his pursuit of his bachelor's degree that he took a course in restorative justice which is what inspired him to further his education with a master's degree in conflict resolution.

The article states he's on track to graduate from George Mason University and even received scholarships from the program.

His instructors have said that he's a great student despite the struggles of studying within prison walls with limited internet/research time and a loud environment not conducive to studying.

Once his program has been completed, Brown will be the first Maine State Prison inmate with a master's degree, according to the Portland Phoenix. He would like to pursue a Ph.D. but right now there isn't an online option. His earliest release opportunity will be in 2023.

I would urge anyone to read the original story from the Portland Phoenix to learn about the unique research Brown is able to do within the prison.

The story is one that made me, and I'm sure many others, really consider how we view criminals, how much grace we're willing to offer, and the limits we place on our own dreams and goals.

It's a conflicting feeling, for me anyway. One the one hand Brown did something horrific and forever changed the life of another man, which created a ripple effect into the lives of others.

However, his story of wanting to better himself and distance himself from his past is admirable and inspiring. If someone can earn a master's degree in prison how realistic are the limits we put on our own goals?

We may live in a world of grey, but this is certainly an accomplishment.

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