Since 2002, Barton Community College has worked alongside the Kansas Department of Corrections to make the world a safer place through inmate education efforts and correction officer training programs.
"Public safety is what our focus is at the DOC, and it’s in the best interest of the state to promote education, job skills and workforce training in order to help offenders be able to become successful upon release," said Kansas Department of Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts.
Ellsworth Correctional Facility Warden Dan Schnurr also stressed that it is important to realize that most inmates will be released.
"Ninety-five to 98 percent of inmates are going to release to the community so it’s vital for them to have an education and skills to get a job upon re-entry into society," Schnurr said. "It greatly reduces recidivism."
Warden at Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility Doug Waddington agreed.
"It really gives them a leg up as they go back to the community, and it helps keep them out of prison. It’s that simple," Waddington said.
Barton has several programs in place at the Ellsworth and Larned facilities. Through their Building Academic Skills In Correctional Settings program, inmates can obtain general education courses, business courses and vocational training.
In addition, a federal grant empowers inmates to earn their GED, and job-based training opportunities ranging from plumbing, welding and HVAC, to computer aided drafting.
Dean of Workforce Training and Community Education at Barton Elaine Simmons said they are actively working with the DOC and the correctional facilities to bring e-learning to the correctional setting as well.
Project Director and Curriculum Specialist at Barton David Miller said the inmate education programs make sense from a financial standpoint.
"It’s just basic economics. It’s cheaper to educate inmates so they can find gainful employment than it is to provide housing and care for them in an institution," Miller said. "They can also support their families which lessens the dependence of these families on government financial assistance programs."
The other facet of the partnership is Barton’s corrections officer training programs. Barton offers a 17-hour certificate course and an Associates of Applied Science in Corrections degree.
"We would like to have the best trained workforce and like for our employees to have the opportunity to grow," Roberts said.
Waddington agrees official training helps validate a person’s interest and decision to work in corrections.
"It’s a nice jump start and a good motivator, and it can help a student view corrections as a career and not just a job," he said.
The partnership will continue to be vital for the institutions as most funding for inmate education programs has been cut at the state level. Roberts said the relationship with Barton is what will allow the programs to continue to thrive and progress.
"What makes this all work is that Barton, the correctional facilities and the KDOC realize that this partnership is a good thing for humanity that serves as a win-win for all involved."
Simmons said the college is committed to the partnership.
"We feel like every day we are helping support correction’s mission and contributing to the safety of the state while helping these inmates become better citizens," she said. "It’s a very rewarding partnership."