LIFE Provides Positive Social Change for Georgia Prison
LIFE Provides Positive Social Change for Georgia Prison; The Power of Education
The Chillon Project is implemented at Arrendale Women’s Prison, Alto, Georgia
The summer quarter began as expected in early July 2016 but with a few new features including a new “branch” campus of Life University at Arrendale Women’s Prison in Alto, Georgia!
During the spring quarter 2016 Life University president, Guy F. Riekeman, D.C. was advised by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) of the approval of the degree offering in Positive Human Development and Social Change (PHDSC) on campus in Marietta as well as at Arrendale Women’s Prison in Alto, Georgia.
Life University, together with the Georgia Department of Corrections, envisioned this degree program to be offered to an initial class of 15 incarcerated women. During the discussions about the development of the program a need was realized to also serve the educational interest of the prison staff and their families. Again with the support of the Georgia Department of Correction, Chillon Project director, Brendan Ozawa-de Silva, Ph.D. proposed to Dr. Riekeman that opportunities equal to those being made available to the incarcerated women of Arrendale State Prison also be made available to the prison staff and/or their families, as they desired.
The staff representatives at Arrendale Women’s Prison hailed these developments as “historic” and as “unprecedented” in prison-oriented higher education. As a result of these changes the opportunity to submit applications for admission were offered to both the incarcerated women and the prison staff. As the summer quarter approached there was a flurry of activity to get all of the needed documentation for consideration of the applications for admission completed.
Remember, incarcerated persons do not have Internet access, do not have unrestricted mail service and in many cases do not even have the assets to pay for transcripts to be prepared and forwarded by their previous educational institutions. There were some hurdles to be overcome!
And, overcome they were! In June the Life University Admissions Committee and Dean Jana Holwick met repeatedly to carefully and thoughtfully review the applications and related documents before making the decisions to admit. The acceptance letters were personally delivered by Chillon Project personnel including Drs. Ozawa-de Silva, Michael Karlin and Thomas Fabisiak.
Classes leading to the PHDSC degree began on Friday, July 15 at Arrendale Women’s Prison—the first time instruction at this level has been available in a prison in Georgia in more than two decades. On July 15, 2016 this degree program become one of a handful of such programs in the country—let alone in the southeastern United States!
While Life University was about the details of this offering the dialogue at the U.S. Department of Education level began to change and a pilot program reinstating Pell grants for incarcerated persons was announced. Institutions across the country were offered the opportunity to apply to participate in this pilot and in June 2016, 67 institutions were approved to begin receiving Pell grants to fund the education of incarcerated persons. Life University chose not to be among this pilot group. The implementation of the curriculum and delivering on the promises made to the Georgia Department of Corrections and the staff at Arrendale Women’s Prison was considered to be a higher priority than engaging the Pell granny pilot for fear that doing so would slow down or delay the start of the Chillon Project. Life University looks forward to engaging the Pell grant process at the most reasonable and appropriate moment. This means that Life University went forward using its resources as well as several important grants rather than delay or disappoint students for the possibility of federal funding.