Prison Program - Saint Louis University

Imagine being incarcerated and being able to express yourself through dialogue, video, poetry or arts. And in addition, how wonderful to be able to obtain a degree while you are incarcerated.

The Saint Louis University Prison Program, located in Saint Louis, MO provides degree programs and arts programs for prisoners incarcerated at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Corrections Center in Bonne Terre, MO.

Founded in 2008, this affiliate prison program of the Saint Louis University initially offered certificates in Theological Studies. Today the program has expanded to include Associate of Arts degrees to incarcerated prisoners and prison staff. Classes include studies in society and culture; classes that help improve comprehension, speaking and writing skills; help prison/students think critically about their future and helps prisoners develop competencies that will help them reenter society, with not only positive experiences, but with skills to contribute to society. In addition, prison staff members earn degrees and credits to help advance their own careers.


"Our primary interest concerns changing the prison culture,"  Kenneth Parker, theology professor and founder of Saint Louis University Prison Initiative

The Saint Louis University Prison Initiative delivers the course experience to staff in a blended program, consisting of both online and classroom instruction. They are committed to having instructors on site and  feel this is a project that is as important as any contribution Saint Louis University can make to our state and our society. One of the key missions of the Saint Louis University Prison Initiative is "Education can transform lives.”

Kenneth Parker, theology professor and founder of Saint Louis University Prison Initiative states that employees at ERDCC are included in this program because the staffs at prisons typically have not had the opportunity to receive an education at a college or a university.
The program aims to create a more pro social behavior amongst the offender population.

Recently the Saint Louis University Prison Initiative received a $150,000 grant, generously donated by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation that will help award successful prisoner/students Associate of Arts Degrees.

The Inside Out Speakers Series is a series of talks, readings and programs that prisoners of Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Corrections Center can attend. Presentations range from Interfaith Dialog, poetry readings and performances by Saint Louis University theater students. These Inside Out Speaker Series are a wonderful way for inmates to connect with the outside world of culture and society

The Video-in-Prison Project is facilitated by Saint Louis University student volunteers to help record and produce presentations and lectures for the prison's closed-circuit television station. What is great about this project is that all of the content is available to the entire prison population.

The Beautiful Prison is an annual colloquium that invites students and faculty from Saint Louis University, as well as incarcerated men and staff at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Corrections Center to engage in dialogue about the prison in a transformed state. The proceedings from the colloquium are bound in an edited collection.

For more information on contributing and supporting the Prison Program at Saint Louis University, please read more here.