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WASHINGTON – April is Second Chance Month, and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) will partner with Prison Fellowship for the fifth consecutive year to honor this national effort. Prison Fellowship advocates for a culture of second chances and increased access to education for incarcerated individuals. The CCCU is proud to recognize and promote 20 member institutions doing redemptive work with prison education programs, fulfilling the gospel’s call to bring hope to the hopeless.
In the United States, nearly 1 in 3 adults has a criminal record. After their debt to society is paid, these men and women face over 40,000 documented barriers to success in addition to the widespread social stigma which is often referred to as “second prison.” Prison Fellowship is the nation’s largest Christian nonprofit serving prisoners, former prisoners, and their families. In working to restore America’s criminal justice system and all those it impacts, Prison Fellowship advocates to empower men and women to end the cycles of brokenness at every stage of the U.S. criminal justice system, from arrest to reintegration, advancing justice that restores and reflects the God-given value of all persons.
In 2017, Prison Fellowship enacted the national observance of Second Chance Month which has grown to be an increasingly recognized initiative. In 2018, the White House issued a proclamation recognizing April as Second Chance Month, and by 2022, over 700 businesses, churches, and organizations will participate. As partners, the CCCU highlights their member institutions’ 20 different prison education programs, joining in raising awareness and unlocking second chances for the 70 million men and women who dream of a better future. Each year through events, advocacy, media, toolkits, events, and resources, Prison Fellowship has paved a way for a culture of second chances to be represented.
“As Christians, we are called to visit those in prison. If our message to people behind bars is that all things are possible through Christ, we can’t be complacent about the legal barriers that hold them back from their God-given potential upon release,” shares Heather Rice-Minus, Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Church Mobilization for Prison Fellowship. “This April, Prison Fellowship is grateful to join with CCCU and more than 700 partners in celebrating Second Chance Month and removing barriers to education, housing, employment, and other opportunities for people with a criminal background.”
Second Chance Month beckons America’s criminal justice system to, “…offer meaningful opportunities for redemption and rehabilitation,” said President Joe Biden in his 2022 Proclamation recognizing Second Chance Month. “By supporting people who are committed to rectifying their mistakes, redefining themselves, and making meaningful contributions to society, we help reduce recidivism and build safer communities.”
“The fact that Second Chance Month falls in the season of Lent – culminating in Easter Sunday– is a beautiful pairing. Prisoners who get a second chance experience a gospel-type resurrection tangibly in the context of our criminal justice systems,” says Shirley V. Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. “The CCCU’s 20 (and growing) prison education programs nurture the power of a second chance through college courses, which say to an incarcerated person, ‘You are worthy of a new life and a future,’ even if remaining behind the walls of a prison. Recognizing the month of April as Second Chance Month is a priority for the CCCU.”
For April 2022, Prison Fellowship will honor Second Chance Month through programs including the following:
- National Community Church’s Second Chance Sunday Service on April 3, online and in-person in Washington, DC
- Virtual Second Chance Month Gala on Thursday, April 28 at 7 p.m. ET
- Road to Second Chances Prayer Walk in Oklahoma City
If your organization would like to partner with Prison Fellowship’s Second Chance Month, you are encouraged to sign up here.
Second Chance Pell
One aspect of the CCCU’s advocacy in Second Chance Month is attention to the Second Chance Pell Grant. Last June, the U.S. Department of Education announced it will expand the Second Chance Pell experiment for the 2022-2023 award year. The FIRST STEP Act passed in December 2018 and in December 2020, Congress decided to pass bipartisan legislation, lifting the 26-year ban on Pell Grants for incarcerated students, a significant legislative initiative creating life-building opportunities for incarcerated individuals.
The Department of Education will implement legislative changes to allow eligible students in college-in-prison programs to access federal Pell Grants beginning on July 1, 2023; however, some schools, such as Oklahoma Christian University, have already been able to gain access to Pell Grant funding for incarcerated students in their programs.
Within the 20 prison education programs currently in the CCCU, hundreds of inmates have participated in Christian liberal arts education opportunities behind bars. A graduate of the Calvin Prison Initiative describes this as an investment, “in not just individuals, but entire communities in and outside of prison. God wants to redeem all of the world, which is impossible if we ignore our biggest messes.”
This month, the CCCU will build awareness for Second Chance Month through social media, an upcoming interview with Emerging Public Intellectual Award winner Aaron Griffith, and other initiatives. Their goal is to draw attention to this month’s unique opportunity to highlight the positive effects of prison education for the prisoner, a prisoner’s family, and the wider community.
“For His anger last only a moment, but His favor last a lifetime; weeping may endure for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5)
Updates, quotes, and stories from the prison education programs within the CCCU are featured below.
“Teaching within a correctional institution has revolutionized my understanding of the gospel. I no longer simply hear or affirm by faith that God sets the captives free through the work of Jesus. Our students demonstrate that God sets captives free on a continual basis.”
– Craig Long, – Trinity International University Waupun Correctional Institution Associate Dean
“The research shows us that educational attainment while people are in prison significantly reduces the likelihood that they will recidivate after they come out. Also, we know it saves taxpayers’ dollars, and we know that it increases employability, and the thing that I see in my work is that it gives people a sense of hope and wellbeing while they are in lockup. I’m hoping that people will invest in solutions that we know work and support people who are hungry to change their lives around.”
– Kimberlee A. Johnson, Director, Prison Education Program & Center for Community Engagement at Eastern University
“I believe the importance of [this education] lies within the goal to encourage morality and spirituality within education, which is quoted in the Calvin University motto “to think deeply, act justly, live wholeheartedly for God.” This combination has the power to awaken anyone who has fallen asleep to God’s Kingdom.”
– Calvin Prison Initiative graduate
“The only opportunity we inmates have for rehabilitation to society is to become educated. One thing that allows two people to see each other as equals is an education. It is rare to ever see a person with a PhD commit a crime. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to be in college, I am asking for help to stay in college. I would like to be an accepted member of society one day, and having an education may equip me with something to give back. My story can’t end here.”
– Hannibal-LaGrange University’s Freedom on the Inside student
“In 2021, over 360+ inmates were spiritually transformed by SMTI courses and four inmates were awarded the 8-course diploma. After offering the Effective Disciple Making course to 120 inmates, a soul harvest culminated in 40+ inmates accepting Christ in one week. Beyond imparting spiritual wisdom, these courses taught by volunteer instructors have inspired confidence and personal achievement in these women, which many have never experienced, especially in the classroom.”
– C. Carroll, Supervisory Chaplain Federal Correctional Institution Aliceville, AL, Samford University
“These classes have helped me to more deeply comprehend the harm I caused to individuals and to society by my actions. Taking responsibility for my conduct does not relieve me of the necessity to pay my debt to society, but it has helped me to see this time of incarceration as not only appropriate but also an opportunity for real growth and change afforded to me by the very society that I wronged. I am extremely grateful for what I have learned so far through Freedom on the Inside and for what I will continue to learn until graduation.”
– Hannibal-LaGrange University’s Freedom on the Inside student
“If I had to boil it down to one thing, I would say hope. Prison is a place in which all hope is all but extinguished. Calvin has given me a hope for the future. Not that I know what the future holds, but that I know my life will not end in emptiness. Calvin has helped me find purpose in my life, and this purpose, or hope, allows me to not worry about the future, or despair, but live well in the present, finding ways to help others and advance the kingdom of God.”
– Calvin Prison Initiative graduate
“We came to prison dead,
but we leave alive in Christ!”
– Trinity International University’s Waupun Correctional Extension Site student
My experience with education in the prison system is one of bringing light into a world of darkness. My work allows me the privilege of coming alongside men with open minds, willing spirits, and hopeful hearts. We have been told that education offers our students the promise of a bright future along with the possibility of making a difference in the lives of those they will touch. What an honor to do this work!
– Robin Knoll, Trinity International University Waupun Correctional Institution Dean of Students
Second Chance Month Program Updates 2022
Baylor has been involved with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) for 15 years. The Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion has studied the program’s effectiveness with Baylor MBA students working closely with PEP participants since 2007, reviewing their business plans and providing guidance, research, editing and marketing information. PEP participants serve as Baylor MBA students’ first consulting clients. PEP delivers results at the intersection of restorative justice reform and economic mobility through intensive character development, an entrepreneurial boot camp, and specialized mentorship that, when combined, produce successful business owners, exemplary employees and good neighbors.
Calvin Theological Seminary (CTS) began holding a few unaccredited seminary courses for inmates at Michigan’s Handlon Correctional Facility in 2005. Inspired by the results, CTS partnered with Calvin University and, in 2015, launched a fully accredited five-year program for prisoners who want to earn a bachelor’s degree in faith and community leadership. The Calvin Prison Initiative (CPI) now accepts a cohort of 30 students each year and offers degrees to inmates with life sentences, not only those who will be released. While many prison education programs only enroll soon-to-be-released prisoners, CPI believes education can transform prison culture from within by affirming the inherent dignity of all prisoners, even those who will not re-enter the larger society. To date, the CPI has granted 28 Bachelor’s degrees, 71 Associate degrees, and 95 Certificates.
In 2019 Campbell University, in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, began offering an Associate of Science in Behavioral Science at Sampson Correction. The AS in Behavioral Science program at Sampson Correction consists of 23 academic courses which are completed in six semesters over a two-year period. Each semester the students are enrolled in the same three or four courses, with each course lasting fifteen weeks. The incarcerated students receive instruction in a classroom setting in the education building inside the prison. The mode of instruction for the program is a mixture of in-person and synchronous, virtual instruction; the use of synchronous virtual instruction allowed the program to continue successfully through the Covid pandemic. Courses are offered four days a week, one class per day, with each class lasting three hours and beginning in the morning. The students have access to research materials provided by the Campbell University Library. Group tutoring in academic areas such as math and foreign language is offered virtually through the Campbell University Student Success Center.
The first cohort of students that began the program in 2019 completed the program in 2021, with 11 students graduating in a ceremony presided over by Campbell’s President J. Bradley Creed. Faculty and administrators attended in full academic regalia, preceded by the university Mace, in a room bedecked with Gonfalons. Students wore button-up shirts and slacks under their Campbell caps and gowns. Despite Covid pandemic precautions, the audience included dignitaries from the North Carolina government, the NC Department of Public Safety, Campbell Board members, and community members. The audience also included a new cohort of students, who began the AS in Behavioral Science program in the fall of 2021.
In the fall semester of 2021, nearly all the initial cohort of students who had earned their AS in Behavioral Science chose to continue their education in one of two new programs: the Bachelor of Sciences or Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, with a minor in Addiction Studies. These degrees and minors were selected to provide the students with a degree that would be most likely to provide the students with employment possibilities. The program consists of 23 courses that include training as a Peer Support Specialist, as well as a 4-month Internship that will allow the students to work with their peers who have had past substance abuse problems. The students will continue to receive instruction in the same environment where they earned their AS degree. The students are very appreciative of their opportunity to be involved in the higher education program as one student stated, “I am very grateful for this program and will do all that I can to repay Campbell by working to improve my community inside and outside of prison.” The BA students are scheduled to graduate in the summer of 2023 and many plan to use their degree to assist individuals in their various communities.
This is CCCU’s newest prison education program, with a launch set for June 2022. In 2020, Steven Scott, a former prisoner saved and called to bring Christ into the prisons, teamed up with Crown College to create Hope to the Hopeless (H2H). This program will offer an associate degree in Christian Ministry within the Nebraska State Penitentiary with the goal of educating and equipping those incarcerated with the knowledge and power of Christ. Hope to the Hopeless plans to enroll a cohort of 15 students each year.
This program is in the fundraising stage with a goal to raise $390,000 before the first cohort graduates in 2024 which will ensure the successful graduation of at least two different cohorts of students. Thus far, H2H has successfully raised $175,282 at the publishing of this press release with support from Crown and the surrounding community. Their goal is to fundraise tuition for the students as well as the necessary learning materials required for each course (e.g. textbooks, notepads, writing materials, etc.). These students will gain a valuable general education with courses offered through a partnership with Metropolitan Community College. Crown College’s Hope to the Hopeless program is being launched to help to improve the safety and security of their community, expand the kingdom of God on earth, and bring Christ’s hope to one of the most hopeless places in our country.”
Columbia International University’s Prison Initiative continues to train inmates to impact the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) with the gospel of Jesus Christ. After 14 years, the Prison Initiative has graduated 181 inmates who received an accredited Associate of Arts degree. These graduates serve in 21 institutions around the state under the supervision of SCDC Chaplains. They are utilized in various capacities from preaching and teaching, hospice care, worship leaders, crisis and suicide prevention, and chaplain clerks. Although COVID-19 hindered training and ministry opportunities during the last two years, our students are back in class this spring and are working on finishing their degrees.
Forty-five graduates or former students of the program have been released from prison and continue to serve the local church and their communities. Prison Initiative presently holds a recidivism rate of 3%.
Modeled after other highly successful programs, Paid in Full Oregon does what has never before been done in Oregon: provide student inmates with a fully accredited four-year Bachelor of Science degree in Liberal Arts with an emphasis in Psychology, Social Service, and Leadership through a partnership with Corban University and the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC). Transforming convicted felons into spiritual leaders and then sending those leaders throughout the prison system to transform the lives of others is the heart of the mission and purpose of Paid in Full Oregon.
The Prison Education Program (PEP) at Eastern University provides a variety of educational opportunities for individuals who are incarcerated and returning from incarceration. Eastern University’s PEP was selected by the U.S. Department of Education for the Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative. Through this initiative, Eastern is in the process of launching an Associate of Arts degree program for incarcerated persons at SCI Chester, a medium-security men’s facility located 17 miles from campus. Along with its AA program, Eastern continues to offer wellness courses to assist incarcerated and formerly incarcerated neighbors with reentry. Recent wellness courses include Entrepreneurship, Emotional Intelligence, and Financial Literacy.
The relationship between Greenville University (GU) and the Greenville Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) dates back to the opening of FCI in 1994. GU faculty and staff volunteered in a number of roles ranging from directing plays and leading Bible studies to conducting mock interviews and tutoring inmates enrolled in the prison’s GED program. The Greenville University @ Greenville FCI program began offering credit classes to inmates in 2014. GU faculty have taught classes at FCI’s medium-security facility for men and its minimum-security satellite camp for women. The classes at the camp entail a blended format in which GU students study alongside women inmates. FCI students who participate in the program learn, feel a sense of accomplishment and experience the love of God in fellowship with others. Currently, the program is on hold due to Covid-19, but Greenville is looking forward to restarting the program again soon.
In partnership with the Missouri Department of Corrections and the Global Prison Seminaries Foundation, Hannibal-LaGrange University will provide theological education for long-term prisoners by offering an undergraduate Christian studies degree program within the maximum-security Jefferson City Correctional Center. The program began July 1, 2020, and is entitled Freedom on the Inside. The program’s vision is to equip and send offenders out to work as field ministers in prisons across the state by teaching them to think biblically, to think deeply, to act justly, and to live as Christ’s representatives in the prison system and the world.
Houghton College—Buffalo East offers Associate of Arts degree programs for local, justice-involved, and at-risk individuals. Many of these individuals believe that a college education isn’t within their reach—whether because of the arduous application process for people with criminal convictions, the cost of tuition, doubts about their readiness for college-level work, or concerns about whether they would fit in on a traditional college campus. Houghton Buffalo East, located in the King Urban Life Center, was established to address these concerns by providing a variety of academic supports and case management services not typically available on college campuses. Although Houghton College does not offer classes inside correctional facilities, its mission is similar to that of college-in-prison programs: to provide vulnerable members of our society with a crucial tool for re-entry, workplace readiness, and personal growth.
At Lipscomb University, students can take classes held onsite at the Deborah K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center (formerly the Tennessee Prison for Women). The Lipscomb Initiative for Education (LIFE) began in 2007, with 15 inside and 15 outside students. In 2018, Lipscomb started the first seminary in a women’s prison in the country. Its Hazelip School of Theology offers a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, emphasizing spiritual care. As a result of grants from the state of TN, enrollment has expanded and programming added at Riverbend Maximum Security Institute (a men’s prison). Fifty students are currently enrolled in Lipscomb through the LIFE program, making progress toward an Associate of Arts, Bachelor of Professional Studies, or Master of Arts degree. Additionally, 12 students are enrolled in a new college prep class. In December 2022, Lipscomb will hold its fifth graduation ceremony at the Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center and will honor the first LIFE cohort to complete a Master’s degree. For students who will be released before finishing a degree, Lipscomb announced a scholarship for LIFE students in 2021. The Richard C. Goode LIFE scholarship, named for the LIFE program’s founder, supports students transitioning to classes in the LIFE program to classes online or on campus, full or part-time.
The Prison-to-College Pipeline Program (PTCPP), a university-community engagement initiative, promotes higher education in prison in response to high incarceration rates and the ongoing need for increased access to educational opportunities in the state of Mississippi. Above all, the PTCPP helps students who are imprisoned in the state of Mississippi who have attained a GED (or possess a high school diploma or high school equivalency diploma) to pursue and attain college credit through a variety of course offerings. The PTCPP currently offers on-site, humanities-based college-level courses for imprisoned men at Parchman/Mississippi State Penitentiary and for imprisoned women at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF).
Recently, North Park Theological Seminary partnered with Stateville Correctional Center outside of Chicago to offer graduate courses onsite for their School of Restorative Arts. The courses combine seminary students, undergraduates, and incarcerated students to examine the prison system from interpersonal, communal, social justice, and faith perspectives. North Park launched a full Master of Arts Degree in Christian Ministry at Stateville Correctional Center, enrolling over 80 incarcerated students to the four-year degree program and four outside (“free”) students who take their courses at Stateville. The program just admitted 20 women for fall 2021 from Logan Correctional Center, a women’s facility. The vision is to prepare people for ministry in contexts, such as prison, that are susceptible to violence. They offer traditional seminary courses as well as other courses on conflict transformation, race relations, and trauma and healing. North Park offers several for-credit courses for non-degree seekers and allows North Park seminary and undergraduate students to take these courses for credit. They also offer a writing course to certify incarcerated students to become writing assistants under North Park’s Writing Center.
Nyack College was one of 67 colleges and universities selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell pilot program in 2016. Nyack has offered bachelor’s degrees at New York Correctional Facilities since 1998. The new funding allowed them to expand their offerings. In 2021-2022, they enrolled 86 students at Fishkill Correctional Facility. Nyack offers two bachelor’s degrees in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentration options in: Psychology and Social Work or Psychology and Business, as well as associate’s degrees in liberal arts and sciences. Although choices are still limited for job-seekers with a criminal record, earning a degree prepares prisoners for employment and increases their job opportunities. Graduates go on to work in construction, transportation, Christian ministry, counseling, social work, entrepreneurial endeavors and more. For their students who have been released, there is a zero percent recidivism rate.
Oklahoma Christian University’s relationship with the Mabel Bassett Corrections Center (MBCC) began in the fall semester of 2021 with a Speech Communication class of 15 students that was taught by Dr. Philip Patterson. Simultaneously, Dr. Jeff McCormack, CAO of Oklahoma Christian, founded the HOPE Institute (Helping Oklahoma through Prison Education). This semester, spring 2022, a total of 28 students are enrolled in OC classes at Mabel Bassett. Each of the fall 2021 students enrolled in the spring offering of English Composition taught by Dr. Nathan Shank—a retention rate of 100 percent. In addition, 13 new students enrolled in a section of Speech Communication, making them the second cohort to begin the associate’s degree in sciences now being offered at Mabel Bassett. The work at Mabel Bassett Corrections Center is completely missional to the work of Oklahoma Christian University. Christian faculty teaches all OC classes from a Christian worldview. Evidence from the first semester’s class shows that, without exception, the MBCC students welcomed and preferred discussions of faith when appropriate during class and pursued faith-based options when given a choice in assignments.
The Ministry Training Institute of Samford University (Samford Extension Division) currently offers three non-credit diplomas to inmates at Aliceville Federal Correctional Institution and Hamilton Aged and Infirmed State Correctional Facility. Each academic year at least four courses are offered at these facilities providing the opportunity to earn a Diploma in Biblical Studies, Advanced Diploma in Biblical Studies, or a Biblical Studies Diploma of Distinction. Samford has offered classes at the Aliceville Federal Correctional Institution since 2014 (over 650 inmates have taken classes) and at Hamilton Aged and Infirmed Prison since 2009 (70 inmates have taken a course in the past four years). The program launched a new educational track for Hispanic inmates in Aliceville in the fall of 2018—over 60% of the inmates at this facility are Hispanic, non-English speakers, and more than 100 Hispanic inmates have participated in classes.
Trinity International University (TIU) has collaborated with the Wisconsin Inmate Education Association (WIEA) to establish an extension site inside Waupun Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in Waupun, Wisconsin. TIU offers a full-time, cohort-based, four-year Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies program to inmates serving either many years or life sentences. Upon graduation, these men become “field mentors” who are available to mentor other inmates either at the Waupun Correctional Institution or at other correctional institutions where they may relocate after completing the program. There are three cohorts at present utilizing a newly designed educational facility in the prison complex. The first cohort graduated in July 2021.
The USW Inmate Education Program is designed for incarcerated students to be able to receive a 4-year degree from USW at a discounted cost. Degrees offered through the Inmate Education Program include a Bachelor of Arts in Community Leadership and Social Engagement and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management. The Community Leadership and Social Engagement degree is an interdisciplinary program meant to prepare the graduate to effect positive community change through best practices in leadership, communication, ethics, and Christian studies. Students enrolled in this degree plan take a combination of face-to-face classes and online classes. The Bachelor of Business Administration with an emphasis in Management includes courses from a variety of business disciplines and will be offered fully online. Courses include accounting, business law, finance, management, marketing, human resources, managing diversity, strategic planning, leadership, and effective organizational teams. USW is working closely together with the administration and education teams at LCCF to create the best student learning environment for the students. The program will continue to consist of face-to-face learning as well as online learning. USW is excited to be partnering with LCCF in offering these degrees.
Wheaton College houses the Correctional Ministries Institute (CMI) which offers specialized training for chaplains and volunteers through its continuing education Correctional Ministries Certificate Program. CMI gives men and women a “Second Chance” by offering the Charles W. Colson scholarship to formerly incarcerated persons to attend Wheaton College for an undergraduate or graduate degree.
York College works in collaboration with the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women to provide the opportunity for cohorts of 12 women to take college courses while incarcerated, with the goal of completing an Associate of Arts degree in 3.5 years. The first cohort graduated with their Associate of Arts degrees in August 2019 and the second cohort is currently underway.
Photo is from Prison Fellowship.