Prison Education Project in Utah to offer bachelor’s program

SALT LAKE CITY — Female inmates at the Utah State Correctional Facility can now apply to a bachelor’s degree program at the University of Utah through the Prison Education Project. And leaders with the project also want to raise money for a computer lab so students can do research for class. 

Education Manager for UPEP Daycy Gomez said they had their first group of students apply to the U of U last week. At the time of publication, at least one student had been accepted.

“We are rolling out on a degree-bearing program where the students can work on getting their degree through the University of Utah. And this is a bachelor’s degree,” Gomez said.

Related: Handcuffs and textbooks: A maximum security college degree

In the past, inmates who were part of the education program could only get their education through Brigham Young University or take classes that didn’t qualify for credits. 

But with the new opportunities come new needs.

“Our students don’t have access to laptops right now. And so, they’re not able to use learning management systems like Canvas, for example, which a lot of professors use. So the professors rely on paper,” Gomez said.

So, in preparation for the new program, Gomez said UPEP is raising money for a computer lab.

“It’s so necessary because the University of Utah is a research-1 school, and so our students need to be able to do research and conduct that research for their classes that this degree-bearing program is going to provide.”

An R1 institution is “the highest tier of research universities in the United States,” according to SAGE Scholars, a college preparation organization.

So far, the bachelor’s degree program with the U is only available to female inmates. UPEP hopes to eventually expand the program and offer classes to men in the prison as well.

Related: Correctional facilities strain to help aging inmates

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