News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 3, 2011

IDOC cuts back on inmate education

‘Teach-out’ will enable about 600 of 2,400 enrolled this year to finish their degrees

TERRE HAUTE — Post-secondary educational opportunities for Indiana’s prison inmates will be seriously curtailed in 2011-12, but the state is moving forward with a “teach-out” program for those close to degree completion.

The maximum available will be $2 million, said John Nally, Indiana Department of Correction director of education.

The state is working out details of the “teach-out” program, which will enable about 600 inmates to complete degrees, those within one semester of an associate degree and within two semesters of a bachelor’s degree.

Inmates would have to complete associate degrees by Dec. 31 or bachelor’s degrees by June 30 of 2012.

This past year, about 2,432 state inmates pursued post-secondary education opportunities, Nally said. IDOC has about 28,000 inmates.

For the upcoming year, “We’ll be lucky to have enough money to do the teach-out program,” serving just the 600 inmates, he said. It’s “highly unlikely” there will be any additional enrollment until August 2012.

In years past, the State Student Assistance Commission of Indiana had provided about $12 million to $13 million in financial aid to Indiana state prison inmates, Claudia Braman, SSACI executive director, said recently.

But the way inmate education is funded is changing. Effective July 1, the SSACI is prohibited from awarding grants to a “confined felon.”

Inmate education has been funded through SSACI grants that go directly to the colleges that participate. In the future, the Department of Correction will administer and fund inmate post-secondary education programs.

For the next year, funding has dropped to $2 million and it will be used for the teach-out program. The next step is for the state Department of Administration to approve Nally’s proposed plan and then negotiate with the colleges that have offered inmate education, Nally said.

In cases where two or three colleges had offered programs at a prison facility, Nally anticipates only one will complete the teach-out program per facility, likely the one that had the most enrollment. That college also would work with inmates who had been taking classes from other institutions.

Geography also will be a factor and the proximity of the college to the prison.

One inmate who is very concerned about the teach-out program is David Glover, who is two semesters away from his bachelor’s degree through Oakland City University.

Incarcerated at the Branchville Correctional facility in southern Indiana, he is serving his prison sentence for drug-related charges.

His mom, Carrie Glover, said he has been trying to better himself through education. In addition to the bachelor’s, he also completed programming in such areas as heating and air conditioning and hopes to start his own business once he gets out of prison.

Her son was “devastated” when he learned that the state had radically reduced funding for inmate education and Oakland City sent him a letter in early May stating that because of the cuts, “the university will no longer be able to offer post secondary educational programs within Indiana’s correctional facilities.”

By completing a bachelor’s and other programs, David Glover had hoped for an early release date of June 2012.

Now, he’s concerned about what is going to happen. “I’m trying to encourage him to hold on,” she said. They are trying to learn more about the “teach-out” program.

Once he is released, her son knows it will be difficult to get hired because of his prison time, so that is why he wants to have his own business. Before his incarceration, he had his own roofing business.

The changes in inmate education have repercussions for several Indiana public and private colleges, which have provided inmate educational services, both associate and bachelor’s degrees.

Those colleges included Indiana State University, Grace College, Ball State, Oakland City, Purdue University North Central and Ivy Tech Community College.

With the loss of SSACI grants, Oakland City was forced to discontinue its programs for inmate education and it had to release 150 full- and part-time employees, said Bernard Marley, Oakland City vice president for prisoner education.

It’s the university’s intent to “do whatever it can to help those in the pipeline” complete their degrees, depending on funding levels, Marley said.

Nally noted that the public has responded positively to the changes and cutbacks to the inmate post-secondary education programs.

“They support the steps the Legislature took,” Nally said, but the decline in funding “will have a major impact” on post-secondary programming for inmates.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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