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Increasing Access to Higher Education in Prisons: Online B.A. Program in Applied Psychology at Big Muddy River Correctional Facility

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $889,915)

Under the management of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), Adler University will deliver a B.A. in Applied Psychology degree program in an online format to incarcerated students at Big Muddy River Correctional Facility in Ina, IL.

Before the launch of this program, individuals assigned to the Big Muddy River Correctional Facility had access to Associate level credentials. Due to the remote location of the facility, opportunities to obtain bachelor’s degrees were scarce. This program includes major and elective coursework leading to the conferral of a baccalaureate degree in applied psychology. The program includes 60 credits, or 20 courses, all delivered online (see Appendix A). Each course also includes weekly synchronous sessions to promote engagement. Additionally, this program includes a minimum of 4 face-to-face advising sessions, conducted at regular intervals throughout the program. During these advising sessions, faculty and advisors serving the program cover topics such as career goals with the students, emphasizing practical applications of content being covered in the degree program. 

The proposed plan to this option would facilitate significant benefits for students in IDOC following their release from incarceration. This would be realized as they search for gainful employment and would help to support their successful reentry into society. An additional advantage is that this option may lead some graduates to continue their education at Adler, completing a graduate degree following their release.           

Graduates of the B.A. in Applied Psychology program are poised to enter a wide variety of careers that draw on the broad interpersonal skills, cultural and psychological knowledge, and socially responsible attitudes developed in the program.

Expected outcomes are improved career opportunities for incarcerated individuals upon their release, which will lead to reduced recidivism rates in Illinois. A 2018 study funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance found that inmates participating in correctional education programs were 28% less likely to recidivate when compared with inmates who did not participate in correctional education programs.

The target population will be 26 students per cohort and 3 cohorts for the 3 years. Big Muddy River Correctional Center is a medium-security adult male facility with an operational capacity of 1,962. As of March 2022, the 1279 inmates were 41.1% Black, 10.2% Hispanic, 47.8% White, 0.1% Indigenous American, 0.2% Asian, and .3% Multi-racial.

We seek priority consideration 1(A). Please refer to pp. 7-8 of the project narrative.

Date Created: September 29, 2022