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Indiana Prisons End College Degree Programs

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.

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