BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections has partnered with the United States Department of Education (USDOE) and Ashland University to provide higher education through distance learning to offenders at the state’s prisons, with the goal of helping them get jobs and support for their families when they are released. Today, offenders at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, Dixon Correctional Institute, Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, and Louisiana State Penitentiary began college coursework in pursuit of an Associate of Arts or Bachelor’s degree. It’s part of the USDOE’s Second Chance Pell Pilot program, which pays for offenders to receive post-secondary education while housed at state and federal facilities. More than 200 offenders in Louisiana’s state prisons have enrolled in the federal grant program.
“Educating and training our offenders makes communities safer,” said Department of Public Safety and Corrections Secretary James M. Le Blanc. “We’re reducing recidivism and preparing our prison population to be productive members of society, and this saves taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration.”
A 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, funded by the Department of Justice, found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who did not participate in any correctional education programs. RAND also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five state dollars are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.
Through this pilot program, incarcerated individuals who otherwise meet federal eligibility
equirements and are eligible for release, particularly within the next five years, could access Pell Grants to pursue post-secondary education and training. The goal is to increase access to high-quality educational opportunities and help these individuals successfully transition out of prison and back into the classroom or the workforce.
Ashland University, Louisiana’s chosen provider, operates the nation’s longest post-secondary correctional education program in the country, and is one of 69 institutions of higher learning selected by the federal government to provide instruction to individuals incarcerated in state and federal prisons. Students will use JPay’s android tablets to interact with their instructors, receive coursework, and turn in assignments. The tablets are programmed to only provide educational work between the University and the offender.
“Ashland University offers the longest operating post-secondary correctional education program in the Nation,” said John Dowdell, Director, Correctional Education, Ashland University. “We are pleased to bring 21st Century technology to correctional students in Louisiana and to offer them the opportunity to earn a degree in preparation for Reentry and positive engagement with the community.”
The Second Chance Pell Pilot program is currently available for up to 300 offenders in Louisiana’s state prisons. Eligible offenders at B.B. Rayburn Correctional Center, David Wade Correctional Center and Raymond Laborde Correctional Center will be able to apply for the Second Chance Pell Grants for the spring semester. In addition to Ashland University, Wiley College will offer coursework in Louisiana in 2017.