Second chances

Gov. Reynolds tours NCCF as inmates work toward college degrees

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Warden Robert Johnson, left, visits with Iowa Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, middle, and Gov. Kim Reynolds at the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City Monday.

ROCKWELL CITY — A pilot program being administered by Iowa Central Community College, which allows inmates to earn a college education, could be one solution to Iowa’s workforce challenges, according to Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“That’s the number one concern I hear when I talk to business and industry — that they need people,” Reynolds said Monday during a tour of the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City. “So this is an opportunity to address that.”

But the impact of the program, called Second Chance Pell, won’t be known until inmates who used it re-enter the workforce.

“We will be collecting data,” Beth Skinner, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, said. “What type of job they get into, what wage they are making.”

Second Chance Pell was introduced in 2016. The program enables inmates who are within five years of release and who meet financial requirements to apply for federal Pell Grants. Those grants are then used to pay for classes offered by Iowa Central.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, right, visits with Glenn Dickerson, an inmate at the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City Monday.

Iowa Central is one of 65 colleges in the United States participating in the program.

Inmates who qualify take two courses every seven weeks, according to Neale Adams, dean of business and industrial technology for Iowa Central Community College.

The Fort Dodge Correctional Facility and North Central Correctional Facility will have its first Associate of Arts degree graduates in a matter of weeks.

“We will have our first Associate of Arts graduates at the end of the fall 2019 semester,”Adams said.

Adams said the college has served 531 inmates since the Second Chance Pell began.

One of those inmates is Glenn Dickerson, who is serving time for burglary-related offenses. Dickerson was busy Monday working on an introduction to computers class.

Iowa Central began delivering its online program for the Second Chance Pell in August 2018.

“It’s a great opportunity to do something productive with my time,” Dickerson said.

He plans to transfer his credits to Kirkwood Community College when he is released at the end of August.

Jesus Lozano is another inmate working toward a college degree.

Lozano, who is serving time for drug-related offenses, said the program gives him purpose.

“Once you get into this program, you can’t get in trouble or you lose your financial aid,” Lozano said. “This is giving us the tools we need once we get back out.”

Lozano said he could be released sometime in 2021.

Warden Bob Johnson, who oversees the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility and North Central Correctional Facility, said some companies have been to the prisons to meet with inmates about jobs.

“We are trying to get them the skills they can use when they leave,” Johnson said.

“Jobs are out there waiting,” Reynolds added.

During her visit, Reynolds said seeing how inmates felt about learning and working toward a degree was impactful.

“They are working and it’s an opportunity to make different choices and have a great career,” she said. “We were one of the pilots with this Second Chance Pell Grant. I have been advocating for that with our congressional delegation with Ivanka (Trump) when working with her and with the Workforce Policy Advisory Board that I have the opportunity to serve on.”

Reynolds added, “We are a great example of how to make it work. We can learn from this pilot program and streamline this and make it work for other institutions.”

The Second Chance Pell will be implemented at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women, Newton Correctional Facility, and Clarinda Correctional Facility, in August.

Adams said the college could implement the use of virtual classrooms inside prisons sometime in the future. He said an example of that would be broadcasting a class from Fort Dodge, while inmates from other sites watch on a TV screen.

Second Chance Pell

by the numbers

Iowa Central is one of 65 colleges in the United States participating in the program.

Fort Dodge Correctional Facility

43 inmates currently enrolled

North Central

Correctional Facility

Nine inmates currently enrolled

According to Iowa Central’s financial aid staff, the average GPA for 2017-18 for Second Chance Pell students was 3.5. The average GPA for traditional students who are Pell recipients was 2.2.

Individuals who participate in education programs during incarceration are 43 percent less likely to reoffend and end up back in prison.

*RAND Corporation