Magazine article Corrections Forum

Long Distance Learning

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Long Distance Learning

Article excerpt

The science of "corrections" has evolved exponentially from the days when criminals were locked away in dingy prisons and their keepers were considered "guards."

In 2003, say today's corrections experts, there's an enormous amount of skill involved in the care, rehabilitation, education, discipline, and-ultimately-the return of offenders to society. That's where higher education comes in.

In fact many corrections officers already hold undergraduate and even graduate university degrees and these are the ones who tend to win promotions within corrections ranks, says Bob Houston of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.

And that's why programs such as Bellevue University's online bachelor's degree completion program are valuable. Nebraska's Bellevue University, founded in 1966, offers Cyberactive learning programs for completion of degrees in corrections, criminal justice and related fields.

Students discover at the outset that their previous college work and career training can transfer easily into college credits. Graduation from an accredited corrections program or academy, for instance, yields credit hours toward a bachelor's degree.

"People in corrections and law enforcement are subject to shift work," said William "Willie" Woolford, Bellevue University's program manager. "The traditional classroom setting and rigid scheduling simply do not work for these kinds of busy people.

"We maximize each student's professional experience and preexisting educational assets, and we believe that what students have done and learned should count," he adds.

'Significant Advantage' for State DOC Staff

"Degree completion programs for corrections officers are . . . a significant advantage to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services," says Houston, assistant director for programs and community services and interim director of the Douglas County (Nebraska) Department. of Corrections. "Clearly, a college education benefits corrections employees in terms of professionalism," he adds.

The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services operates a total of 11 state facilities. It also manages the state parole system and Cornhusker Industries, a service that operates within fenced facilities and employs incarcerated inmates.

"People are surprised to discover that we employ a staff of 2,200 throughout Nebraska," points out Houston. "Nearly half have college degrees."

Corrections employees assigned to urban areas such as Omaha and Lincoln have the advantage of nearby colleges and universities to get or complete their degrees, he notes. "But corrections employees in rural areas don't have that sort of access, so the online program is perfect for them."

One likely advantage of the online degree completion program is that it "might attract people into corrections who were not otherwise considering it," said Houston, who also is an adjunct instructor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. "The more corrections-specific education, the more that facilitates staff members' understanding of their roles and improves their performance."

Credit for Experience

Ken Sturdy, training and development manager for the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, sees many advantages in the department's partnership with the university. Sturdy, who also heads the department's Training Academy, said the program caters best to corrections employees who already have earned some college credits and want to finish their degrees. …

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