NNCC prisoners graduate | NevadaAppeal.com

NNCC prisoners graduate

Dave Frank
Appeal Staff Writer
Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Inmates prepare for the graduation ceremony at Northern Nevada Correctional Center on Wednesday. Twenty-two prisoners graduated with degrees from Carson Adult High School and/or Western Nevada College.

Michael Paul says he’ll be ready when he leaves.

He’ll buy a piece of land, he’ll start his own business and he’ll build the structure there himself.

If his mother is still alive, he’ll take care of her, too.

He said if he’s released in seven years when he goes in front of the Nevada Board of Pardons Commissioners, his life will change and “daylight gets a little brighter.”

Paul, 50, was one of 12 inmates at Northern Nevada Correctional Center who graduated with an associate degree or certificate of achievement through a program with Western Nevada College. The college had 33 graduates this semester in the five prisons it works with.

Like other students, inmates have to take the same classes, get the same credits and pay the same fees to go to graduate.

But Paul wasn’t interested in classes when he first went to prison. He was new, scared and had to learn how prison worked.

“I had no idea what to expect,” he said.

He has his certificate in automotive technology now, though, and is two classes away from his general associate degree. He said he can work well with cars and inventory.

Besides taking classes, Paul also works as a clerk for the prison’s education program. He said he spends most of his days talking with people he doesn’t know.

He likes his job, though, and he’s good at it.

It goes with his personality, he said. “I’m not a clock-watcher, and I’m self-motivated.”

If classes don’t stay full, he said it will be his fault. And then they get canceled.

“That’s not what I’m about,” he said.

At the ceremony, he looked like he was going to cry when he took his diploma.

Sisters waved at brothers, children called to fathers, but no one was there for Paul.

Before he went to prison in Ely 13 years ago, he was working for his mother and had recently moved up from Long Beach, Calif. Eventually, though, “Things didn’t go so well for me.”

Dr. Vito Perrone, who teaches high school classes at the prison, gave the staff speech. He said when he started working there, he expected to meet felons and drug addicts and thugs. He said he saw those, but who he met most of the time was “fathers and brothers and sons.”

He quoted reggae singer Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.”

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our mind.”

After the ceremony was over, Paul thanked prison officials and then ate a piece of cake alone.

He is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.