Best known for its chiropractic program, Life University majors also include undergraduate and graduate programs in health and wellness-oriented fields
Almost 2.5 million people are incarcerated as the main form of punishment for felonies and other offenses in the U.S. each year. It remains a lucrative business for the ever-increasing number of private prisons, generating approximately $80 billion from U.S. taxpayers and an additional $100 billion in costs to individuals for court costs, police, bail bond fees, prison phone fees, etc.
For many felons it is their last stop, or if they manage to reintegreate into society, it is with a stigma and other difficulties that can lead them back to prison.
Life University is working to turn that around. Established by chiropractor Sid E. Williams in 1974, the private university in Marietta, Ga., is best known for its chiropractic program, but Life University majors also include undergraduate and graduate programs in health and wellness-oriented fields.
One of those programs this week conferred degrees upon 15 graduates, all prisoners at the all-woman Lee Arrendale State Prison in Raoul, Ga., located just northeast of Atlanta. The students earned Associate of Arts degrees after Life University majors in Positive Human Development and Social Change as part of the Chillon Project, an initiative of LIFE’s Center for Compassion, Integrity and Secular Ethics (CCISE). It is the second cohort to earn their degrees though the Chillon Project, and many of the first cohort are among 22 students pursuing Life University majors in Psychology.
“Collaboration with educational institutions is one key to successful offender reentry,” said Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Timothy C. Ward. “Our partnership with Life University provides offenders with the knowledge and support to transform their lives into productive returning citizens.”
Dr. Thomas Fabisiak, Ph.D., director of the Chillon Project, says the program embodies Life University’s guiding principle of Lasting Purpose: “Give, Serve, Love and Do.”
“No matter our circumstances, we all share a longing for loving community, for chances to create and grow, and for ways to give generously of ourselves,” Fabisiak said. “There are a lot of people in prison who are not just smart and talented, but who want to excel and give back to their communities, inside and outside of prison, and will gladly do so when offered the opportunity.”
Life and The Chillon Project also fund Life University majors with full scholarships for correctional officers and staff members from Arrendale.
In addition to their schoolwork, all Chillon scholars complete Compassionate Integrity Training, which focuses on secular ethics, resilience, and empathy, as well as social and emotional learning.
“In a vitalistic way, higher education in prison is simply a matter of redistributing resources and reopening doors that had been closed, and seeing the benefits that flow from that,” Fabisiak said.
The Chillon Project is funded through the support of Life University, individual donors and grants from the SunTrust Howell Fund and Laughing Gull Foundation, an organization committed to promoting LGBTQ equality, higher education in prisons and environmental justice in the U.S. South.
For more information about the Chillon Project and other Life University majors visit Compassion.LIFE.edu/Chillon-Project.