The University of Iowa kicked off its prison speaker series on September 18. The UI Speakers Series at Oakdale is a pilot certificate program, “college in prison program” consisting of 10 weekly sessions.
Thirty-three offenders at the Iowa Medical & Classification Center have qualified for the program.
Through this initiative, the flagship public research university soon hopes to offer a college-in-prison program where offenders can earn or finish degrees.
Participants will earn a certificate once they have completed the full series, which discusses various topics such as World War I poetry, human rights, civil liberties and job interviews.
While the certificate doesn’t hold any credit, it has a value in it, said Kathrina Litchfield, the brainchild of the series and programs coordinator for the UI Center for Human Rights.
“It can be used at parole meetings and in future job interviews to show that they have put forward some initiative toward a goal.”
Prison Speaker Series: Education Programs Improve the Odds Among Inmates
Research shows that education programs have a positive impact on prisoners.
According to a research analysis by nonprofit RAND, inmates who took part in this kind of program have 43 percent lower chances of coming back to prison.
The 2013 study, partly backed by the US departments of Justice and Education, also found that employment after release was 13 percent higher for those who participated in academic or vocational education programs.
Prison Speaker Series: UI Program Gets Backing
Litchfield has collaborated with Bard College in developing the UI program.
The private college in upstate New York has now the biggest college-in-prison program in the country. It began awarding college degrees to imprisoned students in 2005. Today, the Bard Prison Initiative enrolls about 300 people and offers over 70 courses per semester.
The prison speaker series has also gotten the back of UI President Bruce Harreld. He gave the second talk on September 25 about “Learning Through Discussion.”
Harreld will be with them again on November 20 for the banquet and presentation of certificates.