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Indiana prison education cuts cost Ball State jobs

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A new Indiana law denying state grants for college education to prison inmates has cost the jobs of more than 70 Ball State University employees.

State legislators last year cut off Frank O'Bannon grants to inmates, including about 1,000 enrolled in Ball State classes. Those cuts mean a loss of about $3 million a year to Ball State and have resulted in the loss of all but four of Ball State's 80 prison teaching jobs. Most of those positions were filled by part-time adjunct faculty.

The grants were curtailed because legislators didn't think it was right for felons to receive free college education on the backs of taxpayers while tuition costs were becoming unaffordable for many families.

"We are exploring options, but there is nothing firm now," Indiana Department of Correction spokesman Doug Garrison told The Star Press of Muncie. "One possibility is an offender-funded correspondence course. Another is a very limited program at one or two facilities that may involve the use of college-accredited volunteer instructors. This is all very preliminary and I have no more details than this."

Unemployment is often cited as a reason for repeat offenses, and program supporters say the education cuts could result in released prisoners having more trouble finding jobs.

Sentences for offenders who earn a bachelor's degree are reduced by two years, and those who earn an associate's degree are released a year early.

The Frank O'Bannon grants are funded by the state, do not require repayment and had been made available to students in prison and traditional college students. But a state law enacted last year prohibits the grants from going to inmates.

Statewide, nearly 2,500 inmates received more than $9 million in O'Bannon grants in 2009-10. More than 1,000 were enrolled in Ball State and received about $2.8 million. Ball State was the largest educator of inmates in Indiana, employing faculty and site managers inside five state prisons.

Other colleges that were involved included Oakland City University, Indiana State University, Purdue University North Central and Grace College.

John Nally, director of education at the prison agency, had told The Star Press that Indiana's correctional education program had been the largest in the nation.
 

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  • Pennywise and poundfoolish
    For some of you who have chosen to act as if you don't want any incarcerated folks to earn an education because you don't want your taxpayer dollars paying for it, please realize that your taxpayer dollars will end up paying for not educating this population, in the form of higher recidivism rate and longer sentences served.
  • One Less Handout...
    No sympathy here. I worked my way through college 75-79 and no one helped me. These felons do not deserve or should expect taxpayer paid college education. It is a game to reduce the sentence. They did the crime, they can pay the dime if they want a college education. And, what company is going to hire a convicted felon in today's world?
  • Prision Rehabilitation
    Doubtful that inmate wages of $.35 - $.55 per hour from Pen Products would be meaningful enough to pay for education.

  • Let them pay
    Somehow prison inmates get enough cash to make the prison system our worst drug problem in the country. Let them pay tuition like the rest of us. How ridiculous for them to get a free education! They are already using my tax dollars to live and eat for free.
  • Lock UP Forever Sounds Good, But...
    Senator Merritt has over-reacted to the molester/swim coach case where sentencing mistakes were made and past education was incorrectly used to reduce the term of imprisonment.

    Having inmates earn GED, technical skills, and working at PEN products during their a period of unproductive time is good for everyone.
  • Lock Em Up
    Sorry. Those who DO NOT commit crimes get better jobs for a reason. In a Depression/Recession, the better job candidates have no criminal backgrounds. Why waste taxpayer funds. Employers are NOT going to hire ex-cons, regardless of their 'education' because of their criminal convictions. Too many inmates 'use' the education provisions to 'game' their time behind bars. Remember that child molester/swim coach who JUST got out because of use of this provision? Nope! And, to those who have been making their dimes off of the 'at risk'? Their turn is coming.
  • Hey Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education
    Make all Indiana universities earn their non profit status with mandatory unsubsidized contributions to basic inmate education.
  • Investment, Not Expence
    Give the contract to Indiana's community college network along with online learning.

    Two year technical degrees and trade certifications with options to transfer credits later makes financial sense and preserves the goal of inmate reform to productive society.

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