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LU prisoner-education program

One of Gov. Kaine’s amendments to the state budget would expand a prisoner-education program suggested by Liberty University.

Kaine’s change to the budget bill would allow every college in the state to sponsor inside-the-prison classrooms equipped with computers.

When the General Assembly approved the budget bill, it contained language sponsored by Del. Kathy Byron, R-Campbell County, that specified only Liberty University would offer the program, and only at the new Green Run Correctional Center near Chatham.

Kaine’s amendment would extend the program statewide, to about 30 correctional centers and all public and private colleges.

Liberty intends to set up a model classroom to provide post-secondary education at its own expense. About a third of the Green Run center’s anticipated 2,000 inmates would qualify for the computer-based education program.

Godwin said Liberty’s computer-based, distance-learning program grew by 43 percent during the current academic year. Many of its students are at military bases around the world.

The concepts of that distance program would be applied to the prison classroom, but with one major difference: the prison computers would not be connected to the Internet. The computers could not be used to communicate with anyone outside the prison and could not connect with other computers.

The computers would operate from a server inside the prison classroom that contained nothing except course material loaded into it by the teacher, who would be a Liberty employee.

Although the legal language to set up college classrooms in prisons is part of the state budget bill, no state money would be used for the program Liberty proposes.

Liberty University would fund the program out of its own budget, Godwin said. The teacher, computers, and classroom furniture all would be provided by Liberty.

The Green Run Correctional Center was built with classrooms that are ideal for the program.



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