Our View: Prisoner Education a Step Toward Better Life

By The Jackson Sun 

People go to prison for reasons too many to mention. But what we know is that, except for the most dangerous violent criminals, the vast majority of prisoners someday will get out and return to their home communities. What happens to them next can mean the difference between lifelong problems and becoming productive citizens. A small program at Lipscomb University in Nashville is a good model that can offer hope and opportunity to prisoners who are serious about turning their lives around.  Image courtesy lipscomb.edu

On Dec. 13, Lipscomb will graduate nine inmates with post-secondary associate’s degrees. Eight will come from the Tennessee Prison for Women, and one from another penal institution. These women have spent their time behind bars working to improve their lives through education. Lipscomb began this program eight years ago. It provides professors who go to the prison each week to conduct college classes. Lipscomb also has regular students join in classes held at the prison. This helps offer inmates a valuable non-prison point of view of life, along with a more real-world mix of people they someday will meet in the workplace.

In its essence, prison is punishment for breaking the law. It is not a pleasant environment, and those who have been there will attest that there are no “country club” prisons. But that doesn’t have to mean that some inmates can begin to improve their lives, even while serving their sentences.

While we don’t have statistics to prove this point, it is safe to suspect that many people in prison have modest or poor education backgrounds. And even those who might have done well in school will be out of the mainstream of society and the workplace for at least a few years.

Jamie Merisotis, president of the nonprofit private Lumina Foundation, noted that about two-thirds of jobs being created in the United States require some form of post-secondary credential. That is up from 25 percent in the 1970s. That statistic puts a lot of pressure on prison inmates who hope to do better with their lives when they get out.

For most, that will be an uphill battle as convicted felons. But coming to job interviews with solid post-secondary education credentials could give them a big advantage. Not only will they be able meet job requirements, they will have demonstrated through their achievement that they are serious about leading a productive life and being a good citizen.Post incarceration employment can mean the difference between success and failure in life. The ability to earn a living, rejoin families as a contributor, and to take part in community affairs requires economic stability. Programs such as the one at Lipscomb can help those who are committed to doing better with their lives.

Post incarceration employment can mean the difference between success and failure in life. The ability to earn a living, rejoin families as a contributor, and to take part in community affairs requires economic stability. Programs such as the one at Lipscomb can help those who are committed to doing better with their lives.

(First published by The JacksonSun.com and used here by permission)