Lynne Sullivan knows the transformative power of education.  After being convicted of second degree murder, she spent the first few years of a life sentence in and out of solitary confinement.  

A new life path opened for Lynne when she was encouraged by another inmate to go back to school.  This path eventually led her to earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Boston University.  A few years later–after she was released early on parole– she earned a master’s degree from Boston University in criminal justice.  

Lynne is now focused on giving back.  She is currently the Regional Manager for Massachusetts and Rhode Island at the Petey Greene Program, where she oversees academic support in several correctional facilities, community correctional centers, youth centers, and reentry programs.   

She didn’t get there alone.  Her true silver linings during her darkest times in prison were the people who motivated her to keep moving forward.  Lynne tells us about the power of someone believing in her and caring about her success–something many of us take for granted. For Lynne, it was Joanne Hemenway from the Partakers Program who stepped in to fill this role.  Even though Joanne had never met Lynne before, she showed up once to introduce herself, and then she “just kept showing up.”   Through the Partakers Program, and with Joanne’s support, Lynne was able to get the GED and earn the credits she needed in order to qualify for the Boston University Prison Education Program.  

As she tells us, education doesn’t just feed the mind, it feeds the soul.  Lynne feels strongly that education is key to ending the cycle of recidivism in the carceral system.

  “If you ever want to have it so prisons aren’t so full, start educating [incarcerated people] and treating them like a human being. . .  Let them fill their minds. Let them fill their souls.  And grow.  And learn.  And become the humans that they were meant to be.” 

The ripple effects are undeniable.  As Lynne reminds us, educating a single individual also has life-changing impact on their families and communities. 

Victor Hugo wrote, “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”  

Lynne Sullivan is living proof.  

Episode Links and Resources:

Lynne Sullivan:

Petey Greene Program:

Partakers Program:

Boston University Prison Education Program:

Forget Them Not:

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