The Freedom to Learn Campaign of Illinois (FTL) calls for clear and fair statewide policies that allow higher ed in prison programs (or college-in-prison programs) to operate free from undue interference or interruption of their students’ academic and intellectual pursuits. FTL endeavors to center the needs and voices of prison instructors, incarcerated students, alumni, and families.
In particular, the Freedom to Learn Campaign advocates for:
Freedom to Pursue Higher Education While in Prison
Practices for higher education in prison vary across Illinois’ prisons. Policies should be put in place to expand access to college programs. All academically eligible students should able to enroll in college, with no bars based upon criteria such as length of sentences, age, or criminal charges.
Freedom from Transfer
Transfers between facilities are common within Illinois, disrupting the academic progress of many people. Other states have a “transfer hold” for those in education programs so they cannot be sent to another prison unless there is a clear and pressing need. This should also be policy in Illinois.
Freedom from Censorship
Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass are just two of the dozens of titles that have recently been banned from prison classrooms by the IDOC. Book approval policies should be transparent and fair, with clear procedures. There should be an independent appeals process.
Freedom to Continue Education Upon Release
Many incarcerated students wish to continue their education upon release. Illinois needs policies that support diploma and degree completion, such as: requiring state colleges and universities to designate staff who will be trained to support and respond to the special needs of individuals with criminal records; and allowing formerly incarcerated students to maintain professional contact with the programs they studied with while in prison for assistance with references, letters of recommendation, etc.