A new program at the Tennessee Prison for Women allows students at Lipscomb University and inmates to take classes together at the Nashville prison, reports the Tennessean. It’s a first for any university in the state. Fifteen female inmates were selected from 70 who applied. Lipscomb offered 15 traditional students, men and women, to match up with them. “I was thirsty for knowledge,” said one inmate. “I never would have gotten this opportunity on the outside.”
Inmates can get up to 18 credit hours and can go to Lipscomb or transfer to other schools to finish their degrees after leaving prison. “When they get out and they want to come to Lipscomb, they’re welcome to continue toward their degree,” said Richard Goode, the professor who developed the program. Donations let Lipscomb offer the classes free, unlike some of the correspondence courses taken by a few inmates in the state prison system. Traditional students who go to the prison every week for the class see it as a rare opportunity to find out about prison life and interact with people shut off from society. The first class is a study of the judicial process, with inmates and traditional students exchanging views on how the system works. In the future, the school will offer liberal arts classes designed to be interesting to the inmates, including ethics, literature of prisoners and the modern history of politics and reconciliation.