ALBERTA, VIRGINIA, November 20, 2018. The Laughing Gull Foundation recently awarded Southside Virginia Community College a Higher Education in Prison Grant to support the College’s Campus Within Walls Program. College education provides incarcerated students the tools they need to successfully re-enter society and become productive citizens.
Lisa Hudson, Campus Within Walls Coordinator, states, “It is so rewarding to be able to provide educational opportunities to students who never thought college was an option for them. They share their experiences with their families and everyone benefits. Students transform their own lives and it encourages children and grandchildren to continue their own education. This changes generations.”
Hudson explains that almost seven out of every 10 incarcerated nationwide people are rearrested within three years of their release from prison. An Institute for Higher Education Policy report found that the most significant factor in reducing this recidivism is college education, which offers former inmates a better chance of being productive, employed citizens. In fact, the study found that recidivism rates for incarcerated people who participated in prison postsecondary education programs were on average 46 percent lower than those who did not take college classes.
“Those statistics are remarkable,” says Hudson. “We know that 95% of people in prison will eventually be released. If college experiences could cut the recidivism rate in half, we could save the Virginia taxpayers millions of dollars and at the same time have a positive impact on our students’ lives.”
One student who has been incarcerated since the age of eighteen and is nearing release at the age of forty-one says, ““Going through the Associate’s Degree program has given me the confidence to know that there isn’t anything that I am not capable of if I put my mind to it.”
Southside Virginia Community College started Campus Within Walls in 2009 at the Lunenburg Correctional Center in Victoria. The program has allowed incarcerated, college-ready students the opportunity to attain education and training credentials. Currently, students have the opportunity to work toward an Associate’s Degree in General Studies (61 credits), a certificate in General Education (31 credits), or a certificate in Business Software Applications (9 credits).
The Laughing Gull Foundation grant of $87,000 will provide funding for two years to support student tuition and books. Campus Within Walls currently serves Lunenburg Correctional Center and the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland, Virginia. Plans are underway to expand the program in response to inquiries received from several prisons to have classes offered for their inmates.
Joan Tuck, Professor of Information Technology, has taught at the Lunenburg Correctional Center since 2011. Tuck observes, “The students in this program are enthusiastic about enrolling in higher education and they work hard to earn college certificates and degrees while incarcerated. I truly believe that education changes lives and this program is a perfect example of the mission of Southside Virginia Community College.”
The Laughing Gull Foundation is a progressive family foundation rooted in the U.S. South. Through grant making activities they work proactively toward a mission of transforming broken systems for the benefit of people and the planet. LGF envisions a world in which everyone is supported, included, embraced, and protected, especially those who have been pushed to the margins of the human family.
SVCC, a two-year institution of higher education, is one of 23 community colleges in the Virginia Community College System. Its 4,200 square-mile service region, the largest community college jurisdiction within the Commonwealth of Virginia, spans the city of Emporia and ten rural counties in south-central Virginia. The college offers 23 degrees at the associate level, a host of shorter-term academic and workforce development programs, opportunities for dually enrolled high school students, adult basic education, and other transitional services for non-traditional students. The Campus Within Walls program extends the College’s academic reach to incarcerated students.
If you would like more information about Campus Within Walls and the Laughing Gull Foundation’s Higher Education in Prisons grant, please call Lisa Hudson at 434-736-2063, or email lisa.hudson @southside.edu.