KENT, Ohio — Kent State University at Trumbull is launching a program this fall aimed at helping incarcerated individuals at the Trumbull Correctional Institution receive their bachelor's degree.
The program, which has received funding support from local foundations, will offer incarcerated individuals at the facility courses to complete a bachelor of technical and applied studies degree while serving time.
Sinclair Community College has already been involved with the correctional facility, offering an associate degree in business management, and the first graduates of that program can begin working on their bachelor's degree through Kent State University this fall.
Incarcerated students can also earn a certificate in entrepreneurship through the program.
“We chose the BTAS with entrepreneurship training because it is difficult for individuals with felonies to get hired by employers,” said Kristenne Robison, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology, criminology and justice studies. “By developing their entrepreneurial mindset and skills, as well as putting credentials in their hands, graduates of the program can start a business, pursue funding for their entrepreneurial efforts or offer value to local employers.”
Studies have shown that receiving a college education can help incarcerated people successfully reenter the community after their release. A 2013 Rand study found that individuals participating in a college education program while incarcerated were 43% less likely to re-offend.
The program does not have an official name yet, the university said, but has been in the works since January 2020. With Congress reinstating access to Pell Grants for incarcerated students last year, the program is expected to be self-supporting and not require additional funding.
Kent State's new program aims to provide positive rehabilitation to incarcerated individuals at the facility while also preparing them for success after their release.
“Our program begins near the 50th anniversary of the Attica Prison riots, which occurred in September 1971,” Robison said. “The first college degree program in prison emerged out of the Attica Prison riots as it gave incarcerated individuals something positive to do with their time while incarcerated.”
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