SLCC

SLCC Prison Education Program gives students more than a degree

Aug 29, 2023, 4:30 PM | Updated: 6:53 pm

a man holds his cap during his graduation through the slcc prison education program...

Jose Rios-Mojica holds his mortarboard cap after receiving his high school diploma at a commencement ceremony for incarcerated individuals at the Utah State Correctional Facility in Salt Lake City on Monday, June 5, 2023. (Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)

(Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Twenty-three graduates were awarded with associate degrees or certificates of completion this summer, as Salt Lake Community College’s Prison Education Program took off.

The SLCC program started with a couple of students back in 2017, growing to a program with hundreds of students and now- graduates.

It offers six different paths: anthropology, business, criminal justice, history, general studies and paralegal studies.

“The hope is that it provides new opportunities for our students who are currently serving time in the Utah State Correctional Facility,” Chris Bradbury, Prison Education Coordinator, said.

Bradbury said obtaining a degree increases job opportunities and the salary options for those jobs. But, it also provides a sense of accomplishment.

“It provides students with a means of building their self-esteem, it really allows them to discover themselves,” Bradbury said. “Gaining an education is something they’re choosing to do.”

The U.S. Department of Education found that inmates who participate in a prison education program are 48% less likely to return to prison within three years. So, it is actually saving taxpayers money.

A RAND study found that every $1 spent on prison education saved taxpayers at least $4 in reincarceration costs.

“It is allowing students to discover that they can make a change in their life,” Bradbury said.

A family member getting a degree while incarcerated can also inspire family outside of the prison. Bradbury said an inmate prioritizing education and obtaining their degree can inspire their family members to also pursue post-secondary education.

He spoke about his experience with one particular student.

“They looked at their grade and they said, “I did that. I did really well in this class. I never believed I could do something like that before,” Bradbury said.

“For them, that was the realization that they could go to college. They could do something different than they had done in their past.”

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SLCC Prison Education Program gives students more than a degree