“To have this opportunity is an answer to prayer and an opportunity to fulfill my calling,” says David. He's pursuing a bachelor of arts in ministry leadership degree offered by Calvin College. He's also an inmate at Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan. 

The Calvin Prison Initiative offers 20 inmates in the Michigan correctional system the chance to pursue a B.A. while incarcerated. The initiative, which accepted its first class in August, has been positively received by inmates, prison staff, and Calvin faculty alike.

The positive effects of educational programs like the Calvin Prison Initiative are far-reaching, says David Rylaarsdam, a professor of historical theology at Calvin Theological seminary. He claims that programs like Calvin's can dramatically reduce recidivism rates, something that benefits society as a whole. 

The Calvin initiative is similar to an existing program at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, which In Trust featured in a 2011 article. The Louisiana program offers associate and bachelor degrees in conjunction with the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and it has proven effective, helping reduce violence rates within the institution and providing the opportunity for Louisiana State inmates to transfer to other facilities in an effort to reduce violence rates elsewhere. Yet another program, at the notorious Sing Sing prison in New York, is sponsored by New York Theological Seminary.

The experiences of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New York Theological Seminary, and Calvin College indicate that engaging the prison population in these types of educational programs can be successful and worthwhile.

Do you know of any other schools that are providing similar programs? What have your experiences been with prison ministry?

To read the full article on Calvin College’s Prison Initiative, click here. To read the 2011 In Trust article about New Orleans Baptist Seminary and New York Theological Seminary, click here.