The Indiana Department of Corrections may soon gain the authority to approve the educational courses inmates can take for degree credit under a change proposed in a legislative study committee.
The Department of Corrections currently works with six universities and colleges to provide degree programs to inmates. A new proposal presented to the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission would provide the DOC with authority to approve which courses inmates can take for credit. That means even if a course would count towards a traditional college degree, an inmate would have to receive approval from the department.
Commission chairman Ralph Foley says the whole purpose of the education program is to help inmates make a smooth transition to life after prison.
“We want to incentivize that course of education that leads to employment.”
However, Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis), who sits on the commission, says the Department of Corrections shouldn’t have the authority to mandate what classes inmates can take.
“It’s about like saying, if I take a theology course, that that’s not going to be useful. A theology course could really change who I am as a person. Learning about the Bible and religion in itself could change my life, but it may not have an effect of creating a job opportunity in the future.”
Foley says inmates would have the opportunity to make their case to the Department of Corrections why they should be allowed to take a certain course.
The commission is scheduled to vote on a comprehensive criminal justice reform package at the end of the month.