By Kimberly Hill/Clarion News
LINCOLN UNIVERSITY- When the NAACP approached the university years ago to create a prison education program to help inmates obtain affordable education, several faculty and staff members agreed to help.
“In October of 2021 we got a working group together and it has been full steam ahead since then,” said LU political science professor Dr. Brian Norris.
The prison education program is designed to enroll and help inmates complete a variety of general education courses such as sociology, English, history, and political science. The courses offered will help students advance towards a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. “The BLS is a flexible degree,” Norris said. “It’s designed for older students who have been out in the workforce already.”
The first set of courses are planning to be available in the fall of 2022 and located at the Jefferson City Correctional Center (JCCC). Each student will be able to take a total of four courses at a time. Due to the facility having little to no Internet access, the students will complete all course readings and work on paper. This is a slight difference from the traditional in-seat or hybrid courses offered on the LU campus.
Norris explained that there is extensive academic literature that suggests a positive correlation between years of education attained, increased salaries, and lower unemployment. With the focus being on inmates serving five years or less, this program increases the likelihood of inmates successfully being reintroduced to society and the job market.
There are plans to expand the program once the demand increases. Because of the space limitations at JCCC, only 12 students can be accepted for the first semester. Students will be able to choose from a variety of courses.
“We are contemplating offering concentration courses in business administration and agriculture/food safety,” said Norris.