Great Books in Tennessee Prisons

Sunday, April 20, 2008 | 07:00pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A partnership between the Department of Correction, Middle Tennessee State University and the Great Books Foundation is allowing inmates at three Tennessee prisons to take part in regular discussions of great books.  The program, entitled Great Books in Middle Tennessee Prisons, is currently underway at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, the Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility and the Tennessee Prison for Women.

 The program began in January of this year, when Dr. Daniel Born of the Great Books Foundation, based in Chicago, visited several Tennessee institutions with TDOC Education Director Sharmila Patel.  “We described the need for programs like Great Books in our prison,” said Patel.  “The reading and discussion of great books expands our educational opportunities for incarcerated men and women.  It enlarges minds and creates a sense of community.”

One inmate described the reading class as one of the most illuminating experiences he’s had.  “I’ve been incarcerated for 24 years and this class is one that I will carry with me forever,” he said.

With a grant funded by MTSU, Dr. Philip Edwards Phillips, Associate Professor of English, and five of his colleagues have been leading regular discussions of great books at the prisons.  “This program provides motivated prisoners with the kind of intellectual stimulation that is sorely lacking in many of the nation’s prisons,” said Dr. Born.

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