Inmates at the D.C. jail and Howard University students learned alongside each other this spring, and on Wednesday actor Nick Cannon recognized them.
More than 150 participants graduated from the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which covers the criminal justice system and aims to "facilitate dialogue across difference," the program's website says.
"Many people have so many different opinions about our justice system," Cannon told a crowd of students inside the jail on Wednesday. "Opinions never change history. It’s examples that change history. Everybody in here is an example."
The actor started his freshman year at Howard University in 2016.
The former “America’s Got Talent” host is a certified Inside-Out instructor and served as the master of ceremonies at the celebration. He taught a course this spring on social justice and the arts.
Since the program started in 1997, more than 140 universities have sponsored courses, in over 140 prisons and jails where the students meet. The program challenges students to think critically about social injustice and collaborate on a range of projects, according to the program's website.
Cannon said part of what the program represents is the power to understand reform and the power not to judge people. He said he hopes the students feel inspired from participating in the semester-long course.
"We are cut from the same cloth of humanity, and ultimately, it’s not our place to judge, but it’s our place to empower," he said.
Cannon also said the program, as well as its director Bahiyyah Muhammad, inspired him to continue his studies until he achieves a Ph.D.
Wednesday’s ceremony took place at the Correctional Treatment Facility in SE DC.