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SCC has scaled back programs offered at prison due to coronavirus

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Stanly Community College has scaled back the programs it offers to inmates at Albemarle Correctional Institution, which could potentially end up costing the school hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The college typically offers Career and College Readiness courses (where inmates can receive their high school diplomas), along with classes in Electrical Systems Technology, Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration, and IT-Business Support, SCC President Dr. John Enamait said.

John Enamait

Instructors from the college typically travel to the prison for in-person instruction with the inmates, but that was stopped in the spring once visitation into the prison was curtailed.

When SCC transitioned to remote learning in March, it continued as much instruction at ACI as possible through online instruction via Canvas in classrooms that were internet-enabled and video lectures provided via WebEx. Faculty also traveled to the prison to drop off instructional packets at the gate house for inmates to complete.

But due to limited internet access inside the prison, many inmates were not able to complete spring classes and were given incomplete grades. Enamait said summer instruction has been focused on completing the incomplete grades.

The Career and College Readiness courses have not been able to be taught since mid-March.

As the number of inmates testing positive for the coronavirus has continued to increase (more than 100 inmates have already contracted the virus), Enamait is not sure what the future will hold.

SCC generates more than 150 FTE (full-time equivalent) at the prison each year, with each FTE worth around $4,500, “so it’s going to hurt if ACI can’t get it under control and the virus continues to spike like it is,” Enamait said. “It will definitely impact the college in some way.”

He said if the college can’t make up the potential lost FTE in other areas, it could have a financial impact for the college next fiscal year.

The instruction is critical for the prisoners, since studies have shown inmates who receive education are more likely to get a job once they are released and less likely to return to prison, Enamait said.

Since SCC is in between semesters, Enamait has been working with the prison to develop a plan for the fall semester that could include a combination of packets and recorded videos, “however, everything is dependent on what ACI can allow and still the COVID-19 outbreak,” he said.

“With the constantly changing situation within the facility, everything is tentative right now,” Enamait added.

Contact reporter Chris Miller at 704-982-2122.

 

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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