Prison Initiative Celebrates Graduation

June 10, 2016

A group of 14 female South Carolina prison inmates were encouraged to “allow other inmates into their lives” so they can share with them “the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

The message came from Peggie Johnson, a long-time mentor and professor to the women – the second cohort of female student-inmates to graduate from the CIU Prison Initiative program. Johnson was the commencement speaker at the graduation June 10 held at the Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Institution located in the sprawling state corrections facilities directly across the Broad River from the CIU campus. 

The CIU Prison Initiative is a two-year, Associate of Arts degree program designed to prepare inmates for ministry within the state’s prison system. The South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) and CIU first joined forces in 2007 and started the Prison Initiative in SCDC’s male institutions. Since the program began, a total of 124 male and female student-inmates have graduated, been assigned to dorms and are serving as chaplain’s assistants in many of the Department of Correction’s 23 institutions across the state.

“This collaboration with CIU has made a tremendous impact on offenders and our institutions,” says SCDC Director Bryan Stirling. “The Prison Initiative increases the safety and security of our institutions while helping to lower recidivism in South Carolina.”

With the proven success of the Prison Initiative for male inmates, the Department of Corrections and CIU implemented an expansion of the program to SCDC’s female population in 2012. Of the Department of Corrections some 20,620 inmates, about 1,400 are females housed in three different institutions. 

It is to these women that Peggie Johnson told the cohort to “grant them access to you, to your love for God, and your love for one another, because it is written that they will know that you are His disciples because you have love for one another.”

The Prison Initiative is supported by churches, businesses and interested individuals. By law, incarcerated inmates are not eligible for state or federal aid, therefore their programs are entirely donor funded.