NASHVILLE, Tenn. – History was made Tuesday evening as five offenders became the first cohort to earn college degrees at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution (RMSI). Graduating with their Associate of Science in Business Administration from Nashville State Community College, the group joins over 200 other men and women who have earned a college degree behind the walls of a Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) prison.
Through partnerships with over 10 colleges and universities, TDOC offers degree programs across the state that allow offenders the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees.
“This is my favorite part of my job,” Rachel Riley-Coe, Assistant Commissioner of Rehabilitative Services, told the graduates. “I believe in the power of education. With education comes perseverance, with education comes strength, confidence, critical thinking, and dreams of what could be.”
It is the goal of TDOC under Commissioner Frank Strada to have associate and bachelor’s degree programs in every institution and expand the number of vocational classes available to the offender population. The department aims to increase pre-apprenticeship and work release programs to provide more earning and saving opportunities for offenders.
“One of Governor Lee’s priorities continues to be ensuring there is a pathway to a productive life beyond crime that will ultimately make our state a safer place, and the Tennessee Department of Correction, its staff, educators, and partners, join him in that mission,” said Commissioner Strada.
Four of the graduates from RMSI will be furthering their education by continuing with Lipscomb University to complete their four-year degree.
TDOC operates an educational system approved by the Tennessee Department of Education and provides Adult Basic Education, Career and Technical Education, and Post-Secondary Education at each facility across the state. Instructors hold valid Tennessee teacher’s licenses, and work to provide students with education and career training to increase public safety and reduce recidivism.