October 26, 2023

Consortium for Higher Ed in Mississippi Prisons

"There are efforts underway now to provide a computer space for inmates to learn and study."
BY: Rhonda Dunaway

Consortium to Support Incarcerated Students in the Prison Classroom held at Hinds’ Eagle Ridge Conference Center


Sociology and criminal justice instructor on the Hinds-Raymond campus, Dr. Shannon Anderson, said she has been teaching in the Pearl Correctional Facility for about a year. She spoke during a panel of the 2023 MCHEP Convening Session held recently at the Eagle Ridge Resort on the Hinds-Raymond campus.

“One of the biggest things I wanted to be sure and speak about was the technology aspect,” Dr. Anderson said. “It’s definitely challenging working at a facility with no access to internet. That means no Canvas, no student discussion boards, no Navigator, no Google. As instructors, we have to get creative. We have to go old-school.” She said that there are efforts underway now to provide a computer space for inmates to learn and study.

The panel entitled “What I Wish I Knew: Instructors Share Their Collective Wisdom,” featured instructors from across Mississippi’s colleges, universities and non-profits like the Mississippi Prison Writes Initiative. Dr. Anderson’s issue of information deprivation seemed to be a problem among all of the panelists. It is an access issue which many Americans take for granted. After all, even poor people can go into a library and access all the information they desire.

The consortium members held several sessions Sept. 11th and 12th at Eagle Ridge. Their intentions were to provide support for each other, but most importantly to learn how to prepare prisoners for release in a state where everything is stacked against them.

America leads the world in the rate of people put behind bars. And in Mississippi, in the poorest state in the country, the incarceration rate is higher than in any other state. Presumed innocence for poor people is dead in Mississippi. But there are people out there in the trenches fighting for those who are incarcerated to come home with a plan for success.

The Mississippi Consortium for Higher Education in Prison (MCHEP) seeks to understand the high rates of minority and impoverished people being imprisoned and give inmates a second chance to get their GED and enter college level courses that can help prepare them for the workforce the day they are released.

Consortium participants came together to learn best practices for college level instructors in all prison settings. And as great as it sounds, the educators who go into these prisons and jails in Mississippi face steep obstacles.