In an effort to provide a more productive experience for inmates and avoid a federal takeover, the prison system in Alabama has introduced an educational program.
The Alabama Prison Arts and Education Project offers classes in ten prison facilities across the state, teaching inmates everything from arts and literature to science and engineering.
Each class typically holds between 18 and 22 inmates. According to new warden Dewayne Estes at St. Clair Correctional Facility, any interested inmate must put in a request and be a model of good behavior, reports Beth Shelburne for WBRC.
Estes went on to say that he believes the program could be a good opportunity to allow for the decrease in prison violence across the state.
“It can be an opportunity for something for an inmate to do, education-wise, program-wise, self-help-wise, social-skills-wise, anything that will be uplifting to an individual, everything helps,” said Estes.
Inmate Wayne Kyzer is one student to participate in the program. After killing three people, he is currently spending the 38th year of the rest of his life behind bars, writes Venton Blandin for ABC 3340.
“Prison is the most boring place I have ever been in my life. In a way, it used to be exciting, but no more. Everything has become so jaded now,” said Kyzer.
Christopher Tremble, who began his life sentence in 1999, said he is doing all he can to make himself a better person while serving time for robbery and attempted murder. “I have gotten a GED, a trade and continue taking these types of classes. I just graduated a drug program,” said Tremble.
Since the program began in 2003, 2,500 students have taken part, said Program Director Kyes Stevens. She said the opportunity gives inmates the ability to connect with human curiosity, something that is almost nonexistent within the prison system.
“Not being able to feed that curiousity, I think kills part of the human spirit and so when you have individuals who come into a class who are so incredibly starved to learn and be engaged and learn new ideas and challenging concepts, as an educator that’s really inspiring,” said Stevens.
While she does not believe that all inmates who participate will be changed, it may have a positive aspect on those who have not had much previous access to educational opportunities. A 2012 study performed by the RAND Corporation found that inmates who participated in an educational program while serving time had a 43% lower chance of committing crimes once released from prison than those who did not.
The program, paid for by grant money, is supported by Auburn University.