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Youth Offender College Courses

Monday, February 25, 2008 | 06:00pm

TIPTONVILLE, Tenn. - It’s an opportunity they never thought they would have, but one that could prevent them from getting into trouble again.  Several inmates at the Northwest Correctional Complex have become college students.  A partnership between the Department of Correction and the University of Tennessee at  Martin allows several youthful offenders to enroll in English and history college courses this semester.

The pilot program is paid for through a federal grant, “Grants to States for Workplace and Community Transition Training for Incarcerated Youth Offenders.”  Inmates under the age of 25 who are within five years of their release dates can participate.  The students are also expected to have a history of good behavior.  The credits they earn can be applied toward a degree upon their release from prison.  Studies have shown that former inmates who have academic and vocational training are less likely to re-offend when they return home.  Offenders who possess a post-secondary degree have the lowest recidivism rate.

“We are proud to be in this partnership with UT Martin,” said TDOC Commissioner George Little.  “We appreciate the staff and faculty who have taken the initiative to educate this sector of our society that, all too often, is forgotten and who will hopefully rejoin our society as productive and educated citizens.”

UT Martin has been partnering with the Tennessee Department of Correction for three years by offering courses and training to staff using onsite facilities or via interactive video.

“This is a national initiative using federal funds with goals to reduce recidivism, save the taxpayers’ money and improve our society,” said UT Martin Chancellor Tom Rakes. “UT Martin is pleased to partner with the Tennessee Department of Correction in our efforts to achieve such noble goals.”

“The program is an excellent example of what can be accomplished when two state entities get together to forge new relationships and create new programs,” said Katy Crapo, UT Martin Director for Degree Programs and Distance Learning.  Crapo said UT Martin is fortunate to have dedicated and capable faculty, such as Brent Cox and Leslie LaChance, to participate in this innovative federal grant.

“I think this is a great chance to make a difference in the lives of these students,” said Cox. “The experience has been good, and the students have performed well.  Their scores are above average, and their devotion to the subject matter is superb.”

LaChance agreed.  “I find the students at the Northwest Complex to be highly motivated and engaged in the English 100 course,” she said.  “They are well-prepared for each class meeting, arriving with the reading done and their essays written.  They regard their presence in the class as privilege.  It has been a please to teach this group of students.”

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