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IDOC, Lewis University launch prison education program at Sheridan Correctional Center

Photo Credit: IDOC

Lewis University began its Spring semester of classes in mid-January 2023 at several locations, including its new program inside Sheridan Correctional Center.

The 19 enrolled students began a new journey as the initial cohort of Lewis University Prison Education Program students receiving Second Chance Pell grants. The program is the second ‘Second Chance Pell Experimental Site’ in the state of Illinois to draw upon Second Chance Pell awards from the US Department of Education, following Augustana College in East Moline Correctional Center last September.

The Second Chance Pell Initiative, which the US Department of Education expanded for the 2022-2023 award year, enables individuals in custody to participate in post-secondary education programs with Pell grant funding. Lewis University was among 73 institutions approved in April 2022 by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in the Second Chance Pell Grant Experiment. That increased the total number to 200 institutions participating nationally. The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is actively working with Illinois stakeholders and national experts to further prepare for full Pell restoration in summer 2023.

“IDOC is proud to expand its growing list of college partners with the Lewis University Prison Education Program at Sheridan Correctional Center. The launch of this new program will not only provide high-quality education to another cohort of students – but marks a second ‘Second Chance Pell Experimental Site’ in Illinois as we prepare for full Pell restoration later this year,” said Rob Jeffreys, Director of IDOC.

The Illinois Department of Corrections and Lewis University are partnering to give students the chance to earn a bachelor’s degree in Professional Studies. The flexible degree program is tailored to help students develop their professional skills. Faculty travel will from the main campus in Romeoville to Sheridan Correctional Center to instruct students on the same coursework.

“A college degree is the most beneficial factor in social mobilization,” said Dr. Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom, Lewis University Director of Prison Education Program. “Educational programs in prisons contribute to the quality of life in prison not only for students enrolled but for others inside the prison. Importantly, college graduates interrupt cycles of poverty and other social determinants that negatively impact so many incarcerated persons and their loved ones.”

This new prison education program at Sheridan Correctional Center is the latest in many interventions and other services provided at one of the largest substance abuse treatment programs in the nation. The Sheridan Correctional Center program applies clinical best practices and uses a modified therapeutic community model with cognitive self-change.

“We’re proud to be in this program that will help incarcerated individuals obtain a high-quality, postsecondary education, which upon their release from prison, can lead to meaningful job opportunities, reduce the recidivism rate and make our communities safer,” said Dr. David Livingston, president of Lewis University. “This program aligns with our Lasallian Mission of offering access to education and advocacy for social justice.”

Lewis University is an innovative Catholic university offering market-relevant undergraduate and graduate programs to 6,500 students. Sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis University is nationally recognized for preparing intellectually engaged, ethically grounded, and globally connected graduates who impact the world for the better. Visit www.lewisu.edu for further information.

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