Like John Brown, you gave us the weapons with which to fight and then joined us in that struggle. You gave us higher education as a tool for liberating our consciousness; in the process, you freed us to transform the oppression we encountered daily behind and beyond prison walls. From 1982 until now, your commitment to fight on our side educated two generations, in the master’s degree program and the certificate program, in prisons throughout New York State. As a result we, the products of your commitment, are now transforming our reality inside the prisons and outside in urban communities.
— Edwin “Eddie” Ellis’ Tribute to Rev. Dr. George W. (Bill) Webber, The Riverside Church, April 7th, 2005
Contacts: Dale Irvin (President of NYTS), email@example.com
Program Description: In 1981, Ed Muller, a Pastor and chaplain at Green Haven Prison and Karel Boersma, a pastor and volunteer at Green Haven, came to Dr. Webber with a request that the seminary create a curricular extension program for incarcerated Christians and Muslims of strong faith who had a desire to provide pastoral care inside of the prison. They claimed that pastoral care needs were so great that outside chaplains could not address them all. Dr. Webber agreed and collaborated with Rev. Dr. Earl Moore, Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections, responsible for Ministerial and Family Services, and an NYTS alumnus, to create a Master in Professional Studies (MPS) degree for incarcerated people.
The degree is accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada and registered with New York State Department of Education.
The MPS is open to all students who held a bachelor’s degree and references from chaplains and other incarcerated people attesting to their religious commitment. Holders of the MPS degree became chaplain’s assistants throughout the prison system, augmenting pastoral counseling, teaching and social services in the system. The MPS program has a recidivism rate of under ten percent. It continues to turn around the lives of not only the sixteen or so students each year, but also the prisoners they serve while incarcerated and the people they serve once they are released. Since its inception in 1982, more than 400 men have graduated; almost half have been released and continue to serve the community.
Degrees Offered: Certificate in Ministry and Human Services. Students earn between 24 and 33 credit hours.
Programs Offered: The Certificate in Ministry and Human Services Program (CMHS) includes, but is not limited to the following courses: English composition, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, Introduction to the Christian Bible, Contemporary Theology, Introduction to Ethics, History of Christianity I & II, Sociology of Religion, World Religions, Pastoral Counseling, Introduction to Social Work, Homiletics, and Child Development also frequently offered. School year is 2 semesters of15 weeks each, with 5 courses per semester. All courses are required to earn a certificate.
Unique Features: It is the only interfaith religious education program in the New York State prison system.
Correctional Facilities Served: Sing Sing, Green Haven, Arthurkill, Fishkill, Mid-Orange, Eastern, and Woodbourne Correctional Facilities
Population Served: Incarcerated people possessing a high school diploma or it’s equivalent and are engaged in ministry or community service while incarcerated. All faiths are welcome.
Number of Students: Approximately 120 enrolled per year
Graduates to Date: More than 1,000 students have earned a certificate since 1995
Year Founded: 1995
Founders: Rev. Dr. George W. (Bill) Webber
College/University/Organization Partnerships: Nyack College
Funding: As a non-profit 501(c)3 sustained entirely by private donations, RHI does not receive any government funding. RHI does not charge tuition, professors volunteer their time. Textbooks are lent to the students.