A chance to thrive after prison: Mississippi college expands jail ed program

Published 11:12 pm Saturday, June 17, 2023

Northeast Mississippi Community College (NEMCC) is pleased to announce its prison education program expansion at the Alcorn County Correctional Facility (ACCF). Thanks to a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council, Northeast can offer additional courses to incarcerated individuals to help them successfully reintegrate into society upon release.

Dr. Stuart Rockoff, executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council, praised the initiative.

“These vital educational programs are life-changing,” Rockoff said. “We are so pleased that this new instructional space will be at the Alcorn County Correctional Facility. The Mississippi Humanities Council is proud to support Northeast’s pioneering work in prison education.”

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Additionally, the joint prison education program received a grant from Accelerate MS to MDOC Works providing resources for basic training in construction trades and connections to career opportunities for those returning to communities around the state within the year.

“We are excited to partner with NEMCC and Alcorn Regional Correctional Facility. This workforce development training will help prepare ex-offenders for employment opportunities,” stated Bradley Lum, CEO of MDOC Works. “We will work together to connect them to job opportunities they can return to the first day upon release.”

Northeast’s prison education program has been in operation since the fall of 2017, offering a range of courses that apply toward degree programs or have national certification tied to the course. These courses include Industrial Maintenance, English Composition, Speech, History, Philosophy, Employment Readiness, and Construction. The program is focused on inmates scheduled for release within 12 months of the semester to help them earn skills and credentials for employment in the workforce upon release.

Northeast President Dr. Ricky Ford emphasized the importance of investing in prison education programs.

“Providing educational opportunities for incarcerated individuals not only benefits the individuals themselves but also has wider social benefits, including reducing crime rates and improving the economic well-being of communities.”

Alcorn County Sheriff Ben Caldwell is grateful for the partnership with NEMCC.

“We are fortunate to have had an excellent partner with NEMCC for the past seven years. Our hope is that once an inmate is released from our facility, they will have the tools and education to be a productive citizen in our communities. With the help of our partners at Northeast I believe we are on the right path. With the addition of our new classroom, we hope we can help even more inmates.”

Northeast’s prison education program has successfully reduced recidivism rates, and the college plans to continue expanding its offerings to incarcerated individuals. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the college and ACCF have agreed to offer limited courses to begin the cautious restart of the program.