What is the Grinnell Liberal Arts in Prison Program?

The Grinnell Liberal Arts in Prison Program provides liberal arts education to incarcerated men and women in Iowa’s prisons and kids at the Iowa Juvenile Home. We offer a First Year of College to men who undergo a selective admissions process at the Newton Correctional Facility.  In addition, between 60-80 on-campus students volunteer in the prisons each semester.

Who teaches the classes? Do they volunteer?

All faculty who teach courses in prison are paid and are not volunteers.

Who volunteers in the program? How many people participate?

Each semester, around 60-80 student volunteers who sign-up each semester, many of whom volunteer for several semesters during their time at Grinnell. According to our recent program assessment, one in seven of the graduating class of 2012 participated in the Liberal Arts in Prison Program. Furthermore, approximately 9% of all students enrolled in Grinnell College from Fall 2009 to Spring 2012 volunteered with the program. 

Faculty and staff participate in several ways, from giving a one-time lecture on a topic of their choice, to teaching a full accredited class for the First Year of College program. We usually offer 2 to 3 accredited classes each semester, and a handful of faculty give one-time lectures. Several staff  and faculty members have also tutoring men enrolled in the FYOC program.

Each semester we usually have a special event at one of the prisons, including performances by the Jazz Band and Grinnell Singers, and a Grinnell Community production of Waiting for Godot.

For more information on the details of program, see our Program Summary from Fall 2009-Summer 2012 on thehistory page.

What does the program cost?

The Liberal Arts in Prison Program has a total yearly budget of $40,000 a year. This covers all our extensive student volunteer program, which included over 60 students last year, as well as all expenses for the First Year of College accredited program.

How is the program funded?

LAPP is funded entirely by grants and private donations. If you would like to to contribute to our program, please visit our donate page. 

Do students in prison get credit from Grinnell College?

Yes, students enrolled in the First Year of College program receive Grinnell College credits on a transcript from Grinnell. The program is designed to provide the students with 32 credits in introductory level liberal arts courses. We currently offer the First Year of College program at the Newton Correctional Facility. 

Do Grinnell College students receive credit for their participation?

Students can design and teach their own course as a 2- or 4-credit Independent Study or as a 2-credit Plus 2 option. These opportunities must be considered well in advance, but we are happy to discuss the option with any interested students.

How does the program benefit the volunteers?

In the fall of 2011, we conducted a survey to assess the impact of the Liberal Arts in Prison Program. For more information about this assessment, visit our program impact page.

Is volunteering in prison dangerous?

No, absolutely not. None of our volunteers have ever been harmed or threatened while volunteering in prison.