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Prison Ministry Brings College to Those Behind Bars

Contact: Dr. David Schuringa, 800-668-2450


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., May 9 /Christian Newswire/ -- Since 1994 when Congress voted to cut-off Pell Grants for prisoners, college education has become an impossibility for most men and women behind bars. However, from Iowa's Newton Correctional Facility, Crossroad Bible Institute has been piloting a program to offer college courses for incarcerated students.


Since most incarcerated people are not able to go to college, CBI has responded by bringing college to them. With over 40,000 students worldwide, Crossroad Bible Institute has been providing college-level distance education courses for years. But the new courses offered at the Newton facility now provide a traditional "classroom" experience with lectures, a midterm and a final exam. In the fall of 2006, CBI students took a course in biblical hermeneutics, and this spring students finished a course in systematic theology. These and other courses are designed to prepare students for completing a degree at the college of their choice upon their release.


CBI students enrolled in the courses build communication and critical thinking skills while becoming familiar with a classroom setting and the rigors of college-level work. "The college experience students gain in these courses can serve as an integral part of their successful reentry into society," said Crossroad Bible Institute President Dr. David Schuringa. "But our courses do more than develop minds, they cultivate the spiritual lives of students, and this change has the most lasting impact." In fact, as CBI's on-site Instructor in Theology Rev. Art Van Wolde reports, "Among those who participate in intensive faith-based programs during incarceration, the recidivism rate plummets."


The prison population is quite mobile as inmates are moved from institution to institution or released. This mobility could pose a problem for most traditional classes offered in prison. However, Crossroad Bible Institute's unique program is not deterred by prisoner mobility. If a student is transferred to a new facility or released from prison, he can continue his studies through CBI's distance education program. His lessons will continue to be corrected by a volunteer instructor who will return each lesson along with a personal letter of encouragement.


CBI is testing the pilot program in Iowa as the first of many "satellite campuses" offering college-level courses to men and women behind bars. Crossroad Bible Institute receives no funding from the federal or state government. All of its courses are entirely funded by scholarships from private donors and foundations.