CCU college class provides inmates opportunity for higher education

Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 5:56 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 24, 2022 at 1:17 PM EDT
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CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - Coastal Carolina University is partnering with J. Rueben Long Detention Center to provide education for student inmates in order to integrate back into society.

More than a dozen college students and seven student inmates have enrolled in a course called “The Jail Experience Class.”

In the class, students learn the different ways incarcerated people experience living in jails, how they affect and are affected by society and the criminal justice system, and how their incarceration experiences can be applied to understand social justice and the students’ own lives, according to the course syllabus.

This semester is the first time in three years that CCU students will join the class in person since the COVID-19 Pandemic. For the last two years, students were only allowed to write to each other or connect through Zoom.

For those incarcerated, the goal of this program is to teach them what college classes are like so they can pursue higher education.

According to Dr. Jennifer Schlosser, the professor teaching the course, the program can help inmates integrate smoothly into society after their release despite the challenges they may face.

“When I transition back into society, I plan to enroll back into school and try to further my education,” said inmate Clayton Hopkins.

It’s been 10 months since student inmate Clayton Hopkins was admitted to the J. Rueben Long Center due to substance abuse.

“I feel really good about it coming in,” said Hopkins. “When I came in I was lost and I didn’t know what I was doing in life but coming here with these guys, they really showed me a new way of life and how to go about things a certain way.”

For Hopkins, this is a perfect step to pursue his career as a counselor when he is released from the detention center in December.

“My dad supports me in everything I do,” said Hopkins. “He is really excited for me trying to get some help. I feel like this is what is going to help me in life. I just want to become someone in life one day.”

CCU student, Adonya Pertell said this class is just a glimpse of how education can change someone’s life.

“Personally, I’m passionate about education and I really value it, so in order to advance as a society and as a state, we need to educate all individuals, and to hinder anybody from getting an education is wrong in my opinion,” said Pertell.

On the CCU campus, there’s an initiative called ”Incarcerated VOICE,” according to their website, the mission of the initiative is to “build strong relationships, solid research, helpful resources, and accessible opportunities to make education a realistic and reachable goal for people in our community experiencing incarceration.”

Dr. Schlosser said she plans to expand the program to other detention centers across the Grand Strand.