A new program will offer incarcerated individuals at S.C. Department of Corrections facilities the chance to receive bachelor’s degrees at no cost through a partnership with Claflin University in Orangeburg.
In April, Claflin was chosen as a U.S. Department of Education Second Chance Pell Experimental Site, which continues an initiative begun under President Barack Obama to help incarcerated individuals earn university credentials. Healthy Routines, a Columbia-based community nonprofit, is also participating in the program, slated to launch in early 2021.
“Claflin’s Pathway from Prison Program, Second Chance Pell Grant, and our Center for Social Justice all reflect Claflin’s deep and abiding commitment to expanding access to exceptional educational opportunities that can change the trajectory of people’s lives,” Dwaun J. Warmack, Claflin University president, said in a news release. “It’s in our DNA. Claflin was founded as the first HBCU in South Carolina and the first institution of higher education in the state that welcomed all students regardless of ethnic origin, gender, race, or religion. A quality education is the gateway to empowerment and plays a critical role in the successful reentry of formerly incarcerated people into their respective communities.”
Claflin will offer three bachelor’s degree programs through its Center for Professional and Continuing Studies: criminal justice, psychology and organizational management. Students also will be able to obtain minors and certificate credentials.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our inmates to better themselves and receive an education,” Bryan Stirling, S.C. Department of Corrections director, said. “Our goal is to return citizens to the community with skills to succeed, and a college degree can put them on that path. We appreciate this important partnership. This program will give inmates the opportunity to leave prison with a college degree, something that can transform not only their life but the lives of their family members as well.”
Belinda Wheeler is director of Claflin’s Pathways from Prison Program and the Center for Social Justice as well as an associate professor of English.
“Claflin looks forward to working with SCDC and Healthy Routines to provide South Carolina’s incarcerated population with transformational credentials that will help them on their own journey,” she said.