Program Website: http://www.grinnell.edu/academic/prisonprogram
Program Description: “As a teaching and learning community, the College holds that knowledge is a good to be pursued both for its own sake and for the intellectual, moral, and physical well-being of individuals and of society at large.” — Grinnell College Mission Statement
The Liberal Arts in Prison Program extends these convictions to incarcerated students at local prisons in order to engage them in experiences of new knowledge, respectful exchange of ideas, and progressive levels of achievement. The college believes this program supports the work of corrections staff to protect communities and transform lives, making the prisons safer, and preparing incarcerated people to return renewed to their families and communities.
The Liberal Arts in Prison Program started in the spring of 2003 as a creative writing workshop at the Newton Correctional Facility. Howard Burkle, professor emeritus of religious studies, taught the first course. When Professor Burkle could not continue teaching the following semester, two Grinnell students facilitated the program’s transition into a student-run volunteer program.
The following years have seen a steady and radical expansion in the program: course offerings; students began offering courses at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women, and faculty began giving a series of once-a-week lectures. In the fall of 2008, the college hired a full-time coordinator and offered its first college-level course at Newton; in spring 2009, the faculty approved a pilot credit-bearing program, and the college began offering credit on a course-by-course basis. In summer 2011, Grinnell admitted its first class to the new First Year of College Program.
Degrees Offered: First Year of College—32 credits
Programs Offered: First Year of College Program; concerts and other performances; lectures; unaccredited, student-taught courses; tutoring programs in math and GED
Unique Features: Part of the Consortium for the Liberal Arts at Bard College
Headquarters: Grinnell, IA
Correctional Facilities Served: Newton Correctional Facility
Population Served: Incarcerated students in the Newton Correctional Facility
Number of Students: 16 per class
Graduates to Date: None — though about 20 students have Grinnell credit
Year Founded: 2003
Founders: Grinnell College students and faculty; Emily Guenther
College/University/Organization Partnerships: Grinnell College
Funding: Grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc., a gift from Morgan Le Fay Dreams Foundation, and Bard College