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Indiana Prisons End College Degree Programs

The state Department of Corrections is being forced to end its college degree programs because of budget cuts.


Photo: South Dakota Department of Corrections

A classroom at one of the South Dakota Department of Corrections' facilities.

Prisons around Indiana held graduation ceremonies during the month of June for inmates completing college degrees. But those prisoners will be the last to earn college degrees while incarcerated in Indiana.

Under pressure to tighten its budget, the Indiana Department of Corrections phased out college degree-granting programs this spring, and the Indiana Department of Corrections is ending those programs and trying to decide how or whether to replace them.

Education Director John Nally says there are not solid plans for replacing those programs, but he says the DOC is looking at how to restructure adult education in the prisons.

“We are working on how we would put a program in place that, one, would meet the inmate needs for employment post-release, and at the same time be cost-beneficial to the tax payers of the state of Indiana,” he says. “You can imagine what that equation looks like.”

What that might look like is a greater focus on vocational education. Nally says while it’s true prisoners who finish college degree programs are less likely to end up back in prison, he says future programs will have to be job-oriented.

Ken Brauchle is the Dean of Extended Learning at Indiana State University – one of the colleges that’s been providing degree programs at Indiana’s prisons.Brauchle says the way he sees it, college education programs have benefits that vocational education can’t replace.

“I think we’ve tried to train the mind rather than the hands, and change lives and how people think,” he says. “Unfortunately that doesn’t necessarily translate to very specific jobs.”

Brauchle says his department at ISU would like to continue working with inmates, but he says ISU doesn’t have the money to help fund a prison education program either.

  • Steve47834

    As a DOC employee, I can’t say I am disappointed in this decision. In my opinion, college degrees for offenders were not that beneficial. Many would commit new crimes, return to prison and when asked about their education, they admitted their degrees were never used while they were out of prison. Now what I AM in favor of is vocational education; welding, auto mechanics, auto body work, horticulture… manual things when can be done immediately upon release and are less restricted jobs which can be more easily obtained by felons.
    Another thing I’d be interested in is medically removal of tatoos for first time offenders, only. Some kids come in to prison all marked up and regretting they ever got their tatoos. Jobs will be hard to find. If I ever went into a Hardee’s or McDonald’s and behind the counter was a person all marked with facial and arm tatoos, I would turn around and walk out. I consider multi-tatoos unclean.

  • Judithw100

    I do not disagree with you, Steve, about the need for vocational training, and the tattoo removal would be a wonderful idea. But as a volunteer I also have to advocate for the college classes as many individuals are seeking to improve/change their way of thinking. Will that lead to changed actions? i think it requires more than education alone, but at least this was one piece of rehabilitation that will unfortunately now be missing from this awful puzzle. Keep up the good work; i know that COs have had to work with no raises and increased pressures due to budget cuts.

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  • newdegree

    They already do.. The only financial assistance given to inmate is through FAFSA. Anyone can apply and be granted assistance.

  • Luzia

    I hope they replace those programs with something. People need to be involved in something meaningful, it’s lack of meaningful work or meaningful endeavors that are problematic. Inmates will fill that void with something…. better to supply a good option.

  • Bey

    Well I was in prison, and I tell you this. A person with an education, especially a degree, has a higher percent rate of improving his life. Would it make any sense to say a person release from prison with no education. With only hands on vocational skills, so he can only be a labor worker, is going to have the confidence to be successful??? The way the world is evolving, 10 to 20 years down the line your going to need a degree to do basic work. If a person is released from prison with no education what you think is going to happen??? I tell you whats going to happen. He/she is going to go back to the same streets. Hang with the same crowd, and eventually end up in yo house ready to take your hard earned money; then blow your brains out because they don’t want to leave any witnesses. Then you know what? The tax payers are going to have to cough up so more money to house he/she all over again. Not only that, a whole family has now been destroyed because tax payers wanted to go the cheap route. They’ll rather say offenders shouldn’t have an education or degree if tax payers have to fit the bill; then to say whats going to happen if an offender comes home without any degree or education? Anyway it goes we’re going to pay. Now the question is whats more important saving a life, or saving some money????

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