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Giving Compass' Take:
• COVID-19 threaten the sustainability of college programs in prison, despite many educators finding creative workarounds to maintain classes.
• Where can donors fill the gaps for institutions that do not have the capital or staff to keep the programs running?
• Learn more about the effects and aftermath of COVID-19 in prisons.
When coronavirus kept college professors from teaching in person at Maine Correctional Facility, officials reconfigured a prison classroom to hold classes over Zoom using the Internet from an administrator’s computer. Officials at Saginaw Correctional Facility in Michigan waived a ban on communication between volunteers and prisoners so that Delta College professors could instruct their students over email. At Great Meadow Correctional Facility in New York, college classes are postponed and graduation is cancelled.
Coronavirus has upended the semester for college students across the country—and thousands of incarcerated students are no exception. On the outside, professors are conducting classes over video conferencing and graduations will be live-streamed online. But in prison, where the majority of incarcerated people are cut off from the Internet, the options for distance learning are limited, leaving college administrators scrambling to figure out how to finish the semester from beyond the prison walls.
Many have found workarounds now that they can no longer enter the prisons. But they fear the coronavirus could undermine a critical component of college in prison: teaching in person.
How well college programs are able to adapt during the pandemic largely depends on their relationship with the corrections department for their state, and what resources they’re able to provide. Many prisons are operating with a reduced workforce, and can’t spare the staff to keep the college programs running. But there’s an understanding among prison officials of the value of education programs, especially during a crisis, says Ruth Delaney, who provides assistance to college sites for the Vera Institute of Justice.
Read the full article about college programs in prison by Nicole Lewis at The Marshall Project.