Prisoners Are Taking Classes In Prison

Getting on the right track can be challenging for people leaving the prison system, and some Iowa programs are giving them a head start before their release. Hollie Coon oversees Des Moines Area Community College’s educational programs at Newton Correctional Facility and Iowa Correction Institute for Women. She says a criminal history and lack of education can prevent those who are re-entering society from finding a job that can support their families. The educational programs help men and women behind bars finish high school, and learn important life skills to gain employment.

Coon says last year, 120 people earned their high school equivalency diplomas through the program.  DMACC estimates that its education and training programs have reduced recidivism from 27 percent to 9 percent. DMACC also partners with Central Iowa Works and Goodwill Industries for vocational training in transportation, distribution and logistics. 

The program provides support after release, and helps connect graduates with employers. Of more than 80 people who completed the program last year, Coon says half now have jobs.

Coon adds the education program is fortunate to have strong collaborations with those involved, including the Department of Corrections, which provides funding.