According to a study conducted by the National Bureau of Justice, 76.6 percent of prisoners released from prison in 2015 were rearrested within five years, a statistic that Likewise College, the first higher education institution offered to prison inmates, is hoping to change.
The goal of the Likewise College program is to provide an opportunity to break the cycle of recidivism.
“Likewise is one tool that we can provide to inmates while they are still in prison,” senior social work major Sarah Littleton, facilitator of the Likewise Task Force, said. “(It’s designed) to help them to use their time in prison wisely, prepare them to have productive and fulfilling lives outside of prison, and to instill hope and positive values within them.”
As well as providing college level courses, Likewise College has begun collecting books for an academic library. The library will be in the Tucker Unit prison in Tucker, Arkansas. According to Dr. Jeff Kreh, the president of Likewise College, the goal is to raise funds to build a separate space connected to the chapel. He said it would be about a 2,500 to 3,000 square foot dedicated space having basic resources and computer resources.
“These men and women want to learn,” Tanner McDonald, volunteer leader for Likewise College, said. “I think it will not only be a place where we have books, but a place where those books are used.”
The books collected for the library come from a variety of donors.
“This past semester, we got donations from Brackett Library, books that they weren’t using anymore, the ERC (Education Research Center) and the education program, as well as donations from outside sources like the individuals in the community,” McDonald said.
The Brackett Library has also donated 250 shelves. Kreh hopes to involve even more institutions as the library progresses.
“We would love to see a collaborative effort not just with Harding students and Harding faculty but with the private students and faculty across the state and even across the U.S.,” Kreh said. According to Kreh, they also hope to involve students even more in the future.
“(We hope) the really good feeling that your books could change someone’s life (will outweigh) the value of getting 15 percent of what you paid at the beginning of the semester back at the end of the year,” Kreh said.
Kreh also said they are looking for a wide variety of books to include in the library.
“Anything business will have utility to us as we get into the science and entrepreneurship program,” Kreh said. “As well as anything devotional-oriented we could put into the prison chapel library that could help build goodwill and help further encourage that relationship is good help long term too.”
The books are meant to be an academic resource, but they also have a humanitarian effect.
“Hope is the biggest benefit of the library,” Littleton said. “If the library can give them a glimpse into the love that their creator has for them and thereby the love that we have for them, the library will have achieved its purpose in my mind.” For more information on how to donate, email senior Raneisha Stassin at firstname.lastname@example.org.