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Dyersburg State Community College fights prison recidivism with education

Dyersburg State Community College is leading the way to educate prisoners. Their president tells me this program gives those students the necessary skills to succeed, but it also improves our communities.

Classes begin this November with a new cohort of 50 students from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary.

“These prisoners are going to come out. They’re going to live in our community. We are a community college, so we are trying to help the community grow and improve,” said Dr. Bowyer, President of Dyersburg State Community College.

According to Dr. Bowyer, these initiatives will provide incarcerated students with the opportunity to take classes leading to a degree or certificate.

“The program that we are using in our prisons is the Associate of Science Degree in Business Administration. It’s a transfer degree, and it’s also good preparation. If people want to come out and try to start their own business or immediately go to work, they could,” said Dr. Bowyer.

In July 2020, The U.S Department of Education announced the college was included in expanding the second chance pell experimental sites initiative to provide need-based pell grants to people in state and federal prisons.

“And we find, there’s a lot of research on prisoners leaving and going right back to prison,” said Dr. Bowyer.

Over ninety percent of those in Tennessee prisons will leave, and about half will return. Studies indicate educating prisoners decrease the recidivism rate by ten percent.

“I know the faculty that work with these students are very impressed with how well they do and how committed they are to being good students,” said Bowyer.

Another group from the Northwest Correctional Complex will begin classes in January of 2021.

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