Inmates at Tennessee Max-Security Institution Earn Associate Degrees

By CN Staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Four inmates participating in Lipscomb University’s Lipscomb Initiative for Education (LIFE) program at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution (RMSI) received Associate of Arts degrees in a graduation ceremony on Thursday, May 16., which culminated nearly a decade of study and work.

This is the first time that college degrees have been awarded to students at Riverbend through Lipscomb’s LIFE program.

The graduation ceremony was a traditional commencement with faculty and students wearing regalia and processing into the ceremony.  As part of the Lipscomb program, these inmates received face-to-face instruction from university professors at the prison one night a week through the Lipscomb LIFE program as students earn college credit for these courses.

“Education opens doors to opportunity, and it does so no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in.  You’ve shown no matter where you are, you can redefine your future,” said Lipscomb President Candice McQueen during the ceremony.

The graduates will now be the first at RMSI to work toward the Bachelor of Professional Studies degree from Lipscomb University.

The LIFE program began in 2007 at the Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center (DJRC) before expanding to offer classes at Riverbend in 2013.  Since the LIFE program was established, including the graduates at Riverbend, 25 Associate of Arts degrees, 13 Bachelor of Professional Studies degrees, and 8 Master of Arts in Christian Ministry degrees have been awarded to inmates by Lipscomb University.

On average, it takes about 10 years for a student to complete the academic requirements for a bachelor’s degree (which in a traditional college setting would take four to five years), about seven years to complete an associate degree (which in a traditional college setting takes approximately two years to complete), and about four years to complete a master’s degree (which in a traditional college setting takes approximately one year to complete).