CIU Student-Inmate Earns Bachelor’s Degree

December 15, 2015

Billy earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia International University. That may not seem like a big deal until you consider Billy is an inmate in the South Carolina Department of Corrections. He was one of 14 student-inmates to receive his college degree at the CIU Prison Initiative commencement ceremony at the Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia on Dec. 11.

The mission of the CIU Prison Initiative is to train inmates through an Associate of Arts degree, to live in accordance with biblical principles and to equip them for the unique ministry opportunities afforded by their incarceration. After graduation they are assigned as chaplain assistants to prisons throughout South Carolina.  

But Billy (full name withheld because of security concerns) who had already been through the Prison Initiative program, kept on learning and found Ashworth College in Georgia that allowed him to study via correspondence, doing his assignments with pen and paper. (Online learning is not possible for the inmates because of Internet access restrictions.) His credits that included a concentration in Psychology, were then transferred to CIU. But Billy is not done.

“University of Nevada and University of South Dakota offer master-level classes in counseling,” Billy continued. “That’s the direction I want to go because I want to get into drug and alcohol counseling. That was my (criminal) background and there are so many guys in here hurting because of drugs and alcohol, the counseling will help me with ministry.”

Since its inception in 2007, 95 men and women have graduated from the CIU Prison Initiative and serve in over 20 prisons.

Also, check out the story from WACH TV in Columbia about a CIU Prison Initiative graduate who has been released from prison and is now studying for his bachelor’s degree on CIU’s main campus.