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    Prison Education Program Offers Degrees to Inmates

    Panelists during a Prison Education Program panel featured several faculty members who taught in the program and a special guest, from left: Declan Mulhall, Ph.D., professor of engineering at Scranton, Christie Karpiak, Ph.D., professor of psychology, Darryl Byers-Robinson, an alumnus of the Bard Prison Initiative who was featured in the documentary “College Behind Bars,” Chris Haw, Ph.D., program director and professor of theology, and Will Cohen, Ph.D., professor of theology.
    May 18, 2022

    The University’s Prison Education Program at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas “provides an opportunity for the cultivation of human dignity at the heart of a Jesuit education,” according to program director Christopher Haw, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology and religious studies.  

    Through the program, inmates can take general education college-credit courses to earn an Associate of Arts degree from the University, which Haw hopes will one day grow into a bachelor’s program. The courses are taught by University professors on-site at the correctional facility. Currently, 14 inmates are enrolled in the program, which began in the fall 2021 semester.  

    Participants can earn 60 credits for an associate’s degree in just two and a half years. Inmates had to apply for admission and be interviewed and accepted to participate in the program. The program is currently running another round of admissions to increase the cohort to 28 students. 

     “The courses have the same rigor as those taught on campus, with the same outcome expectations, only the approach to the material is adapted to the learners,” said Haw.  

    "I always leave freshly reminded that human beings are made for contemplation, for deep reflection and dialogue."- Will Cohen, Ph.D., Professor of Theology

    Will Cohen, Ph.D., a professor of theology at Scranton, taught one of two introductory theology courses at the prison this past semester.  

    “I've loved teaching the students in this program,” he said. “Each class, because we meet just once a week, goes for three hours, and each time I'm amazed at how fast it goes. I always leave freshly reminded that human beings are made for contemplation, for deep reflection and dialogue. At least when it's oriented toward the good, the true and the beautiful for which we all yearn, it's intrinsically joyful. I feel this very powerfully from my students at the Dallas prison.”  

    The Prison Education Program was highlighted at a panel discussion on campus in April featuring Cohen, Haw and other University faculty members who taught in the program. It also featured special guest Darryl Byers-Robinson, an alumnus of the Bard Prison Initiative who was featured in the documentary “College Behind Bars.”

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