White House Invites University of Puget Sound to Criminal Justice Panel


Students in the FEPPS program at Washington Corrections Center for Women. Photo courtesy of FEPPS.

Representatives from University of Puget Sound have been invited to join an informal round table discussion at the White House about offering college-level classes at prisons. President Obama’s is currently looking into education programs that can help inmate while they’re still serving time.

Puget Sound Academic Dean Kris Bartanen and Associate Research Professor Tanya Erzen are planning to attend the discussion on May 5 to share information about the Freedom Education Project (FEPPS). Erzen is the director and co-founder of the nonprofit that encourages professors from Washington universities to teach college-level courses at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) in Gig Harbor.

140 women at WCCW are currently enrolled in college-level classes thanks to the organization. 75 volunteer professions, 23 of which are Puget Sound professors, have contributed to the cause. Since its inception the nonprofit has provided 74 courses for women inmates.

“This panel conversation will help us get the word out about our joint vision for high-quality college education classes for people in prison,” Erzen said in a statement. “It also puts weight behind our efforts to create a national organization of college-prison partnerships that could become a resource for new programs and help shape best-practice policies so we can continue to offer courses with academic rigor.”

Erzen will be teaching a Prisons, Gender and Education class this fall that will include students in FEPPS. Once or twice a week the students will tutor math and science in the prison study hall.

“Both sets of students have something to learn from each other,” said Erzen.

FEPPS is one of about 150 college-prison educational partnerships in the U.S. It’s now a part of University of Puget Sound’s Civic Scholarship Initiative (CSI) to better connect the school and its educational resources to the community.

is the managing editor at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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