Eleven TDOC Offenders Receive Associate Degrees From Behind Bars

Friday, November 05, 2021 | 04:54pm

NASHVILLE – Eleven men serving time at the Turney Center Industrial Complex (TCIX) received their Associate Degree from Nashville State Community College (NSCC) in a ceremony held at the facility Wednesday, November 3, 2021.  This commencement ceremony celebrated graduates of both the 2020 and 2021 classes, as COVID-19 put a halt to both in-person learning and gatherings for over a year.

This degree program, made possible through the Tennessee Department of Correction’s (TDOC) partnership with the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative (THEI), makes higher education accessible to offenders currently incarcerated, and prepares them for successful reentry.

“Only a few short years ago, being in prison was the end of the road,” said class Valedictorian Brian Hanley.  “We didn’t have anything to hope for to change our future. The opportunities that THEI brings is already influencing our lives.”

Hanley, who has been incarcerated for 27 years, says instead of only seeing inmates playing mindless games or plotting their next move – he see’s men studying and having intelligent conversations about assignments or about the world surrounding them.  “College has not been easy, especially for me,” he continued.  “I finished high school over 40 years ago.  But, this graduating class had to overcome many burdens, including corona-related hardships.”

While the rest of the world moved to online learning, TCIX students remained offline due to their restricted access to the internet.  TDOC facilities were closed to all outside visitors and volunteers, meaning students could not receive direct instruction from their professors.

“This group of students overcame many challenges,” said Assistant Commissioner of Rehabilitative Services, Rachel Riley-Coe.  “I think I speak for everyone within TDOC, THEI, and NSCC when I say we are proud of this group of men and look forward to seeing what they do next.”

TDOC also has higher education partnerships with Lipscomb University at the Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center in Nashville, Rhodes College at the Women’s Therapeutic Residential Center in Henning, as well as Community Colleges across the state.  THEI operates higher education partnerships at three correctional facilities:  Northwest Correctional Complex, Turney Center Industrial Complex, and Morgan County Correctional Complex.