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Gov. Beshear: Expanded Partnership with Simmons College of Kentucky Helping State Achieve Lowest Recidivism Rate Ever

​​College courses program available at the state’s female-only prison, joining Northpoint Training Center and Luther Luckett Correctional Complex
PEWEE VALLEY, Ky. (June 6, 2023) – Building on last week’s announcement that the state recorded the lowest recidivism rate in its history at 27.15%, today, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that beginning this fall Simmons College of Kentucky will begin offering college courses at the state’s female-only prison, the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women (KCIW).

Simmons College, a private historically Black college in Louisville, is the only recipient in the state of a federal Second Chance Pell Grant program that is working to transition justice-involved individuals out of prison and back into the classroom or the workforce at no cost to taxpayers. Simmons College is currently offering courses at three state prisons, including Northpoint Training Center and Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, where 150 inmates are currently enrolled in classes.

“My faith teaches me that there are second chances and that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers,” Gov. Beshear said. “When all our people succeed, we succeed. Through this partnership with Simmons College of Kentucky, we are increasing access to jobs for the justice-involved population, which further lowers the recidivism rate and supports our booming economy and safer communities.”

Inmates who have at least 12 months left to serve or to become eligible for parole may apply to Simmons College. If accepted, they will have the opportunity to pursue an associate degree in general studies or religious studies or a bachelor’s degree in sociology or business entrepreneurship. Simmons College is also assisting the Department of Corrections (DOC) population with financial aid, technology needs and career counseling. Click here to watch a video testimonial from an inmate enrolled in Simmons College.

Upon earning a degree, these individuals who have repaid their debt to society will be eligible to apply for jobs with a salary range of $40,000 to $80,000 annually.

“The goal of the program is to empower justice-involved Kentuckians, remove workforce barriers, reduce recidivism, increase access to education and develop citizens with the capacity for independent, critical thinking,” said DOC Commissioner Cookie Crews. “We are thrilled to partner with Simmons College to set these individuals up for success once released.”

“We are excited to build this partnership with Simmons College and look forward to what the future holds,” KCIW Warden Vanessa Kennedy said. “Simmons provides not only college classes but offers vital support services for the women at our institution to leave here with the skills they need to be successful.”

“Simmons College of Kentucky, the oldest Black college in the commonwealth, was established to provide higher education opportunities for students who needed liberation through learning,” said Simmons College Senior Vice President Dr. Frank M. Smith Jr. “Simmons College is excited to continue such a tradition as we provide learning opportunities for students who are incarcerated. As students do their part, we urge employers throughout the commonwealth to receive our graduates and offer them another chance through meaningful wage job and career opportunities.”

“This partnership and support from Gov. Beshear and the entire Department of Corrections not only increases college access, but it improves employment prospects and leads to self-sufficiency and a sense of belonging,” Simmons College Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Javan Reed said. “This has the potential to completely transform the identity of formerly incarcerated people and how they are viewed in the world. Fostering higher education in prisons is proven to change the economic trajectory of an entire family. Simmons College of Kentucky has an expressed mission to empower and educate people through strong academic and professional programs so that they may become productive citizens and change agents in society.”

Simmons College plans to provide this educational opportunity statewide in the near future.

Today’s announcement builds off work the administration is doing to further reduce recidivism and boost the state’s economy. DOC is currently offering adult basic education and GED classes for inmates at all 14 prisons as well as career and technical education courses.

The DOC’s addiction treatment program has approximately 6,300 treatment beds available to justice-involved individuals, which is the largest number of beds in the history of the department. Of those inmates who completed the program, a departmental study showed that 75% were still employed 12 months after release.

Blackburn Correctional Complex in Lexington manages one of eight Second Chance Farms for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and the only one in Kentucky. Since 2019, nearly 70 individuals have graduated from the six-month equine program and found jobs in the horse industry through their education in horse anatomy, how to care for injuries, equine nutrition and other aspects of horse care.

Through a partnership with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, former inmates are provided transportation at no charge so that they can access substance abuse recovery facilities, medical appointments, job interviews, educational courses and employment. As of April 30, there have been 20,288 transportation vouchers issued to individuals on supervised release.

The Kentucky Transformational Employment Program has trained more than 4,000 business leaders across the commonwealth as second-chance employers, representing 35,000 jobs for individuals recently released from prison or in recovery from addiction.

The Prison-to-Work Pipeline, a collaboration between the DOC and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, has helped 820 individuals be referred to an employment specialist in their community through the pipeline to support a successful transition from incarceration to society since the program’s launch in November 2022. Employers interested in participating in the program should contact the Kentucky Chamber.

To read more about Gov. Beshear’s recent efforts to combat addiction in Kentucky, click here, and for recent efforts to boost the state’s economy, click here.