Starting in 2022, Regis University will offer inmates at four Colorado correctional facilities the opportunity to earn college credit in remote, video-linked classrooms alongside students on campus.
Regis University’s Virtual Inside / Out program is initiated by the University’s School for Professional Advancement in cooperation with the Colorado Department of Corrections. The program will consist of five liberal arts courses offered one at a time in accelerated eight-week periods, allowing inmates to earn 18 Bachelor of Arts credits in one year.
Classes, which will be taught by various instructors from Regis University, include Composition Writing, Introduction to Philosophy, and Leading Lives that Matter. Each new group of incarcerated students begins with a course that reviews basic academic skills.
Bryan Hall, Ph.D., dean of the School for Professional Advancement and professor of philosophy, said the program benefits Regis students as well as prisoners. The two groups of students will benefit from the different perspectives and lived experiences, he said. The virtual mix of incarcerated and non-incarcerated students “creates a radically diverse and powerful learning experience” for both groups, he said.
Courses will be offered to a total of 18 inmates each year at four locations: the Buena Vista Correctional Complex; Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility, a medium security prison in Canon City; La Vista Correctional Facility, which houses inmates, and Sterling Correctional Facility on the Eastern Plains, the largest prison in the state. Students inside, whose participation will be approved by prison authorities, will be in classrooms equipped with large-screen TVs and technology-enhanced cameras. Seven Regis students will be in classrooms on the Northwestern Denver campus.
“There is no more powerful tool in the toolkit for tackling recidivism than education,” Hall said.
According to a study by the US Department of Justice and RAND Corp., some 700,000 prisoners are released each year in the United States; of these, more than half will be returned to prison three years later. But those who participated in a prison education program were 43% less likely to return to prison than inmates who did not.
Initially, Virtual Inside / Out will be funded by the University. Hall said Regis hopes to secure Pell Grant funding for the program as well as philanthropic support in the future.
He said he was excited about the program, which he said embodies Regis’ Jesuit values. “This program echoes the university’s mission to build a fairer and more humane world at the frontiers of culture.
Founded in 1877, Regis University is a leading institution of higher learning and engaged worldwide in the Jesuit Catholic tradition that prepares leaders to lead productive lives of faith, meaning and service. Regis University, one of the country’s 27 Jesuit universities, has three campuses in the Denver metro area and offers an extensive online program offering with over 8,000 students enrolled. For more information, visit www.regis.edu.