CIU Expands Prison Initiative to Women
By Abbey LeRoy
CIU Student Writer
When classes begin at Columbia International University on Aug. 21, more than a dozen new CIU students will be in prison. That’s because CIU is expanding its successful Prison Initiative to female inmates in the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
The mission of the CIU Prison Initiative is to train inmates to live in accordance with biblical principles and to equip them for the unique ministry opportunities afforded by their incarceration.
Since its inception in 2007, the CIU Prison Initiative has graduated three cohorts of 15 men each. They earn an accredited Associate of Arts degree from CIU, and are then assigned to prison facilities throughout the state as chaplain’s assistants.
A program for women has been envisioned for some time, but was not feasible until a recent financial gift provided sufficient resources to make it a reality. The initiative is entirely donor funded, as the law prohibits inmates from receiving state or federal aid.
CIU professor Dr. David Osterlund, who has led the men’s Prison Initiative since its inception, is spearheading the women’s initiative alongside Associate Warden Stanley Leaks. Classes will be held at the Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Institution, part of the sprawling men’s and women’s prison facilities directly across the Broad River from CIU.
Osterlund says the value of the Prison Initiative is twofold as it focuses on educating inmates and preparing them for a unique ministry, “within the walls.”
“The introduction of the women’s program completes a dream for men, and now women who desire to participate in this life-changing work,” Osterlund said.
Following the same curriculum as the men’s initiative, the women will earn 69 undergraduate credits over a two-year, six-semester track, under the teaching of CIU faculty and staff. Math, English, history and psychology courses form the general education core, Bible and theology will account for nearly half of the credits, with ministry skills classes rounding out the program.
Working under the supervision of prison chaplains, graduates will lead Bible studies, coordinate worship services, and provide hospice care, as well as other ministry opportunities at the chaplain’s discretion.