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Hinds CC partners to teach humanities in prison system

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(photo by MichaelGaida from Pixabay)

Hinds Community College is among three Mississippi two-year colleges that are part of a $375,000 grant supporting humanities courses being taught in prisons for the next two years.

Hinds, Northeast Mississippi Community College and Mississippi Delta Community College are the schools that are part of the project. The grant is through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation which funded the project through the Mississippi Humanities Council to support humanities education in Mississippi prisons.

The grant is part of the foundation’s “The Future of Higher Learning in Prison” program.

Hinds Community College has been offering for-credit courses at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl since 2018, said Dr. Keri Cole, vice president of instruction.

Keri Cole, Hinds CC vice president of instruction (photo courtesy Hinds CC)

“We believe deeply that offering these courses to incarcerated students furthers the essential mission of Hinds Community College,” Cole said in a statement. “The Community College Prison Education Consortium will have a profound impact on our most underserved population.”

Hinds Community College English instructor Laura Hammons has been teaching at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility for nearly four years.

“I can honestly say that teaching prisoners is the most rewarding work that I have ever done. They desperately want to learn, and they appreciate the opportunity that our college and our community are providing,” she said. “I am thrilled that Hinds can partner with the Humanities Council and the Mellon Foundation to provide education to people who so desperately want to learn.”

This grant will fully fund eight humanities courses a year at CMCF.

Laura Hammons, Hinds CC English instructor, has been teaching in prison for four years. (photo courtesy Hinds CC)

The Humanities Council, which has been supporting prison education programs for several years, has recently partnered with community colleges to help provide for-credit courses for incarcerated learners. This grant will enable the council to expand these programs and hire a project coordinator to work with the community colleges and the Mississippi Department of Corrections to facilitate student enrollment and recruitment, course management and teacher training.

“We are so excited about The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s support of this work,” said Dr. Stuart Rockoff, executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council. “Our ultimate goal is to help create a sustained statewide program of community college education in our state’s prison facilities.

“We hope this grant will encourage other Mississippi colleges and universities to offer humanities courses to incarcerated learners in their area. Ultimately, we hope this program grows beyond the Mississippi Humanities Council to become an established part of higher education in our state,” Rockoff said.

Shaniece Mabry, director of education for the Mississippi Department of Corrections, said the grant will help “transform the educational opportunities available in Mississippi prisons. Education plays a critical role in breaking the cycle of recidivism by providing the men and women in our correctional system with opportunities to succeed in their communities when they leave our facilities.”

The Mississippi Community College Board worked with the Mississippi Humanities Council to help build the consortium with the participating community colleges.

“I appreciate the Mellon Foundation for providing resources to Mississippi and also offer my congratulations to the Mississippi Humanities Council and the other participants in the Community College Prison Education Consortium for securing the grant,” said Dr. Andrea Mayfield, executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board. “The MCCB is proud to have helped with this effort as funds will help provide quality education to those in most need of help.”

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