In the spring of 2009, the college approved a pilot program to develop and implement a First Year of College Program at the Newton Correctional Facility, which will be reviewed after five years. The program is designed to encompass an excellent, rigorous, and diverse course of study at the introductory level to prepare incarcerated students for further higher education upon their release.
The accredited LAPP program now enrolls incarcerated students in a rigorous first year at Grinnell. The effort began with a single for-credit course in Fall 2009. The offerings doubled in 2010–2011 to include two courses (8 credits total) in the fall and three (9 credits total) in the spring. This was the emergence of a new model equivalent to a first year of college. Incarcerated students apply and are admitted to the program via a rigorous selection process, and commit to enrolling in every course offered each semester.
LAPP admitted its first class into what is now known as the First Year of College Program in June 2011. Participants cited widely varying reasons for applying to the program: some wanted to give their children something to be proud of; others wanted to make best of their time inside; and still others simply credited a love of learning. All admire Grinnell and say they feel honored to be meaningfully associated with the College. The men enrolled in this program have proved exceptionally dedicated to their work and form a strong system of support for one another. They identify as college students first and prisoners last. Many of them talk about the program’s effect on their families, as well: one participant says he often challenges his daughter, a high school senior, to earn more college credits than he has.
This June, LAPP proudly enrolled its second class to the program. The new cohort is taking a full slate of courses this summer (the first time courses have been offered in summer). We look forward to offering a rich and varied academic program over the next year.