South Carolina’s Prison Initiative Program: An Overview

By Christopher Zoukis

Academics and something more—that’s what this initiative is about; yet that something is the defining feature of this program that is working to endow prisoners with more than just academic skills when they leave prison behind them and return to South Carolina’s streets.  The South Carolina Prison Initiative Program is a partnership between the state’s prison system and Columbia International University.  The something that defines this initiative is its faith-based component that provides inmates with spiritual tools they need to make a genuine life change.  Image courtesy

Columbia International University Prison Initiative

According to the university’s website, “The mission of the initiative is to train inmates to live in accordance with biblical principles and to equip them for the unique ministry opportunities available to them because of their incarceration.” Along with general academic subject matter, prisoners are instructed in general ministry skills.  Essentially, the program seeks to empower participants so that they may positively empower others upon their release.  Inmates who participate in the initiative’s accredited Associate of Arts program designed particularly for them are equipped to embrace the ministering opportunities that may be open to them upon their eventual release from prison.  According to CIU, 95 percent of all the inmates in the South Carolina prison system will be released at some point. 

Inmate Eligibility

Not all inmates are interested or eligible to participate in this program.  According to CIU, “The program will be offered only to inmates who meet and maintain high standards of personal conduct” and the school’s “standards for academic achievement.” That said, this program provides an alternative for qualifying inmates; rather than do nothing to improve their skills while incarcerated, they can work toward a brighter future by learning viable skills that can effectively help them change their lives and reduce the risk of returning to the lifestyle or behaviors that caused them to go to prison in the first place.

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