The Indiana Department of Corrections may soon gain the authority to approve the educational courses inmates can take for degree credit under a change proposed in a legislative study committee.
The Department of Corrections currently works with six higher ed institutions to provide college degree programs to inmates. A new proposal presented to the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission would provide the DOC with authority to approve which courses inmates can take for credit, so even if a course would count toward a traditional degree, inmates would have to get the course approved by the state before they could enroll.
Commission chairman Ralph Foley says the whole purpose of the education program is to help inmates make a smooth transition to life after prison.
“We want to incentivize that course of education that leads to employment,” he says.
But Indianapolis Democratic Senator Greg Taylor, who sits on the commission, says the Department of Corrections should not have the authority to mandate what classes inmates can take.
“It’s about like saying, if I take a theology course, that that’s not going to be useful,” he says. “A theology course could really change who I am as a person. Learning about the Bible and religion in itself could change my life, but it may not have an effect of creating a job opportunity in the future.”
Foley says inmates would have the opportunity to make their case to the Department of Corrections why they should be allowed to take a certain course. The commission is scheduled to vote on a comprehensive criminal justice reform package at the end of the month.