Seminaries in Illinois, nationwide have begun offering programs inside prisons

Prisons in Illinois and across the country increasingly are allowing, even encouraging, evangelical and other Christian seminaries to offer courses and degrees to inmates.

North Park University’s seminary recently began a program at Stateville Correctional Center in the far southwest suburbs.

Downstate, the Danville Correctional Center “offers three four-year programs through Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary,” according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Religion News Service recently reported that prisoners “who get an education have a far lower incidence of repeating criminal behavior.”

But those inmates often don’t have the money to pay for traditional online or other correspondence courses.

According to the report, “Evangelical seminaries, led by Southern Baptist-affiliated schools, are increasingly stepping into the gap, raising money to offer inmates free, on-site college degrees.”

Such religious studies are intended to help inmates — especially those with life sentences or other lengthy terms — become better people and show “that their life still matters,” according to the Global Prison Seminaries Foundation.

The aim is also that they become “role models” in prison and “serve their peers,” creating a more peaceful environment and reducing recidivism.

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