February 6, 2003
COLLEGE CLASSES IN PRISON
By: Christopher Reinhart, Associate Attorney
You asked about the number of inmates that take college courses in prison, how much the Department of Correction (DOC) pays for them, and whether inmates pay for the classes.
According to Bill Barber, superintendent of DOC's Education Services Unit, DOC offered 11 college courses last semester (Fall 2002) with approximately 250 inmates taking courses. College instructors hired by Asnuntuck, Three Rivers, Manchester, and Naugatuck Valley community colleges taught the courses. DOC pays a tuition/administrative fee to each college per course (fees differ among the colleges).
Barber stated that DOC used Inmate Welfare Funds to pay the community colleges. According to Marvin Lyon of the Office of Fiscal Analysis, Inmate Welfare Funds do not involve state dollars and the fund consists of profits from items purchased by inmates at commissaries at DOC facilities. He stated that the fund is used for special programs and other items that benefit inmates. Barber stated that DOC previously paid for one semester from the Inmate Welfare Fund and one from the General Fund but it canceled the General Fund courses due to budget issues.
According to Barber, inmates pay a $3 elective fee (under a statute and regulations allowing DOC to recover certain costs of an inmate's incarceration), a $20 student tuition fee for each course, and they pay for their textbooks. Inmates do not receive college loans or grants. But DOC does offer one college course at eight sites funded through the Federal Youth Offender Grant, which covers tuition and books for students in the Youth Offender Program (DOC cannot charge an elective or tuition fee for this).