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SC inmates get second chance to get four-year degree in new program

Claflin University and the SC Department of Corrections are giving inmates a second chance to earn their bachelor's degree.
Credit: Devin Johnson

ORANGEBURG, S.C. — The 'Pathway from Prison Program' allows South Carolina inmates a second chance to earn a four-year degree. It's a new partnership between Claflin University and the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

"South Carolina leads the nation in reduced recidivism," said Cynthia Cash-Greene, Palmetto Unified School District's superintendent. "Currently, the percent is 21.9 percent. Education plays a major part in that. Education changes, the culture, the mindset, and the behavior of someone who may be incarcerated."

The inmates are first screened by the SC Department of Corrections to see if they meet the eligibility requirements. Next, they are reviewed by Claflin to see if they have graduated from high school, have a GED, or have college credits with at least a 2.0. Then, they can choose to earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, organizational management or psychology.

Classes began at the start of July, and there are currently 11 students enrolled. The program's interim director, Dr. Vanessa Harris, says Pathways from Prison prepares the participating students with skills to enter the workforce.

Credit: Devin Johnson

RELATED: Claflin opens social justice center in downtown Orangeburg

"We can't guarantee them a job once they complete the program," explained Dr. Harris. "However, we are giving them access to businesses and opportunities once they're released."

The program is Claflin's newest initiative coming from the social justice center they recently opened in downtown Orangeburg. The program's interim director believes more students will get a second shot at earning their degree in the fall.

"One of the key things we will be doing from the center is offering restorative justice courses," Dr. Harris said. "That will be building them up while they are incarcerated to help them be functional when they are released."

RELATED: Claflin to build new $20 million student and community center