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Simmons College of Kentucky expands education partnership with the Department of Corrections

The seal for Simmons College of Kentucky, a Historically Black College established in Louisville in 1879.
Kyeland Jackson
The seal for Simmons College of Kentucky, a Historically Black College established in Louisville in 1879.

The Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women is joining two other corrections facilities in an education partnership with Simmons College of Kentucky.

Simmons College of Kentucky is adding The Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women to the program, joining Northpoint Training Center and Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in the partnership.

Through the program, people incarcerated at the correctional facilities will be able to take classes at Simmons College if they have at least 12 months left on their sentence before they are eligible for parole or release.

“The 12-month eligibility timeline helps make sure that those that are participating can complete at least one semester without interruption before release,” Gov. Andy Beshear said at a news conference.

Participants will be able to receive an Associate’s Degree, Bachelor of Arts in Entrepreneurship or Bachelor of Arts in Sociology by completing the program.

The partnership was made possible through federal funding viathe recently expanded Second Chance Pell Grant initiative.

Beshear said getting these degrees will help formerly incarcerated people have better access to employment opportunities.

“These students will be eligible for jobs that earn anywhere between $40,000 and $80,000 a year,” Beshear said.

Beshear said having access to job opportunities upon release helps reduce rates of recidivism, thus creating safe communities.

The Beshear administration has introduced other programs to help formerly incarcerated people find employment upon release, including a partnership with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and assistance with transportation needs for addiction treatment, job interviews, education and employment.

The Simmons College partnership came from leaders at the historically Black college.

“In 1879, the doors of Simmons College of Kentucky opened for the express purposes of transforming the lives of oppressed people through the empowerment afforded by higher education,” said Simmons College Vice President of Academic Affairs Javen Reed. “From then, until now 144 years later, we remain to provide all students with an educational experience that enlightens challenges and prepares them to lead successful and impactful lives.”

Reed said the program aims to address the connections seen between education, socioeconomic status and incarceration.

“We conclude that this day is a step towards breaking the link between property and crime although there's still more work to do, to reverse the negative impacts of a series of social policies, and public policies,” Reed said.

Vanessa Kennedy, the warden at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women, said she’s looking forward to the program’s launch at the correctional facility and what it could mean for the people housed there.

“It may sound harsh, but when an inmate leaves, we never want to see them again,” Kennedy said. “We want them to go out into their communities and continue their education, get a meaningful job, be mothers to their children. In our jobs, we prepare them to be the best we can, and their successes make the community safer for all of us.”

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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