Nearly 50 women in prison have taken part in a program that helps them get a college degree thanks to a partnership between Marian University and the Indiana Women’s Prison.
Five years ago, Marian University began the educational program with the Indiana Women’s Prison on the west side of Indianapolis. This also part of the international Bard Prison Initiative, which began in 2001 as a way to create college education opportunities for inmates.
“The program empowers incarcerated women by helping them earn an associate degree while in prison – and then achieve a bachelor’s degree once they are released,” said Holly Grimes, an assistant professor at Marian University. She is also the chair of the Marian Women’s College Program Steering Committee at the Indiana Women’s Prison.
Grimes says this program gives the women an opportunity to embrace skills related to how to think as opposed to just approaching only one skill or job.
“When they’re in our program, building confidence and skills is really important, but then as they bridge and go back into our communities, having a support system in place is really essential. When the women are working on their associate or bachelor’s degree, they are able to coordinate with programs at Marian. That’s an essential piece if they want to pursue that college education,” said Grimes.
Grimes is pleased with the progress that’s been made so far.
“We’ve had 13 associate’s degrees confirmed throughout the history of our program. For the bachelor’s, we’ve had five degrees confirmed. By the end of the summer, we’ll have six,” said Grimes.
They will also have their first-ever on-site graduation at the prison on August 7.
Grimes says there are lots of success stories, but she specifically mentioned a woman named Lisa Hochstetler. She was first incarcerated at the Indiana Women’s Prison in 2009 on drug charges, but started taking Marian University courses in 2017 to work toward her associate degree, which she’s obtained.
“She continued with our Marian adult program. She’ll actually be getting her bachelor’s at the end of this summer in Health and Human Services with a minor in Business. So, we’re all really excited and thrilled for her progress and this big milestone that’s coming up for her,” said Grimes.