KCCD offers inmates a chance for higher education

Tiarra McCormick, Reporter

While inmates are in jail, they have to figure out what to do with their time. 

Many get jobs inside to build their skills for the time when they are released. 

The work experience that is acquired during their time before release is a revamping of the talents that they already possess.

The Kern Community College Inmate Scholar program serves ten California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation facilities. The mission for the program is to help inmates get an education by following the Institutional Learning Outcomes required for both the inmates and BC students to receive a degree. 

These guidelines according to the KCCD “guides inmates to think critically, communicate effectively, and demonstrate competency using their job-related skills.” 

The program aims to help inmates receive 15 units by the end of the first semester and 30 units by the end of the first year. 

The programs offered are CSU Breadth General Education, Certificate of Achievement in Culinary Arts (McFarland), Fire Technology Courses to the Fire Brigade at Wasco State Prison, and the Free on the Outside (FOTO) student club.

There were more than 2,400 students enrolled in the spring of 2015 in Kern Valley State Prison. 

This program is only offered to a select few who meet certain guidelines and are offered a spot in the program.

To receive a degree inmate must meet the same requirements as any other BC student. 

Professors from Bakersfield College teach various subjects at the jail and help the inmates obtain degrees that can be used when they are released. 

There are differences in teaching on-campus versus in prison like On-campus students have unlimited resources like the library, the internet, and other peers. 

While in prison, students have to use censored articles for the class, censored images, maps, and graphs, and there are no electronic devices allowed.

In prison there are security measures taken like security guards are placed inside and outside the classroom and if a lockdown happens no one can go to class. Before teaching in jail, there are procedures professors have to follow like passing a background check, getting approval to teach inside, and their teaching materials have to be approved.

When checking into the prison people must go through a metal detector, take their shoes off, and have to be mindful of the clothing they wear. 

Professor John Giertz handles challenges as they come as an on and off-campus professor, that teaches on campus and in jail he is currently finishing his third year of teaching at the Inmate Scholars’ program. Professor Giertz enjoys the challenges of the environment as well as the opportunities to help meet the needs of the overlooked population.

The professors are paid the same as if they are teaching an extra class but the faculty are offered a stipend to volunteer to teach. The program is offered to help educate inmates and give them an incentive for a chance to become a sustainable member of society through education.