The prison-college partnership will help 10 students earn a bachelor’s degree in communication.
EAST MOLINE, Ill. – A partnership between East Moline Correctional Center and Augustana College gives inmates a chance to complete a four-year training course.
This program takes the class behind barbed wire.
Spending time behind this wire and the metal gates at East Moline provides plenty of time for reflection.
“I am guilty of murder and attempted murder,” said Albert Redmond.
Redmond is currently serving a 20-year sentence for his crime. He has already served 14 of those years.
“I understand it’s a blessing,” Redmond said.
This blessing is something Redmond thinks about often.
“I always wanted to go to college,” he added.
Fortunately for Redmond, he can.
Thanks to a new partnership between the East Moline Correctional Center and Augustana College, nine more students like Redmond are studying for a four-year bachelor’s degree in communication studies.
“It is a game changer,” Redmond said.
Paul Olsen recently retired from teaching full-time at Augustana College for more than 50 years, Olsen said Thursday.
“It’s just an opportunity to help bring fairness and justice to an area that I know something about,” Olsen said.
Olsen now teaches the African American Literature class for the Communication Studies degree. Redmond said it was his favorite class.
This class is part of the five-course fall program for inmates. The detainees are full-time students, similar to what students at the Augustana campus would experience, according to university officials.
And, all of this is done for free.
The program is privately funded through a $ 225,000 pilot grant from the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation, which is a separate entity from the college but still funds other projects on campus, according to a spokesperson. of Augustana.
“I feel like I’m doing something that matters,” Olsen said.
Director Robert Hamilton said the partnership opens up new opportunities for inmates and opens doors on their release from prison.
“I want them to understand that they are still human beings, still men in the community,” Hamilton said. “It doesn’t matter what they did to get here. We want to give you the tools you need to be successful.”
A four-year education, something Redmond dreamed of, would help him start his own business after his release from prison.
“I want to own and operate my own freight business,” Redmond said. “And I’m actually studying that now.”
Redmond said attending those classes and participating in the program also gave him a “good time,” meaning he could be released earlier than planned and could put his degree into practice.
“I can’t think of any better position if I’m going to be incarcerated than to be here, to be a student right now,” Redmond said.
It’s a non-traditional classroom, where everyone inside can reflect, in more ways than one.
Augustana executives hope to add more teachers next year in addition to the 10 currently teaching.