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Augustana Offers Classes at EM Prison

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Dr. Sharon Varallo
APEP - the Augustana Prison Education Partnership

A small group of special students has started taking classes from Augustana College in Rock Island. Ten inmates at the East Moline State Prison have enrolled in the Augustana Prison Education Partnership, studying history, literature, math, religion, science, and the arts.

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Dr. Sharon Varallo
First day of APEP orientation, in parking lot of EMCC Dr. Jason Mahn, Dr. Kevin Geedey, Dr. Jake Romaniello, Dr. Sharon Varallo

Partnership Director, Doctor Sharon Varallo, says applicants had to have a high school diploma or GED, and take a two hour written exam.

"It is a hard-sell sometimes for someone to imagine why literature and why liberal arts in prison. But the liberal arts education is an education in critical thinking. It's about imagining options, learning who you are, learning what your gifts are, and what you can give back to the world."

It's a four year degree program, the same as if they're attending classes on the campus in Rock Island.

"It makes sense financially, it makes sense in terms of public safety, it makes sense by every metric, having an education like an Augustana education reduces recidivism dramatically."

Varallo says research has shown for every dollar spent on higher education in prison, five dollars is saved due to lower recidivism and unemployment.

The grant-funded Augustana Prison Education Partnership is based on the Bard Prison Initiative founded at Bard College in New York in 2001.