December 10, 2013
Kenneth Parker

Prison Program Moves to College of Arts and Sciences

The program, which was originally spearheaded by the Department of Theological Studies, had previously been overseen by the School for Professional Studies.

This November, the Saint Louis University Prison Program transitioned from the School for Professional Studies (SPS) to the College of Arts and Sciences. The Prison Program, which began as an initiative within the Department of Theological Studies in 2007, has become a work embraced by a number of departments and programs throughout the University.

The program was overseen by SPS from August 2010 to October 2013. It now includes an associate of arts degree, an arts and education program that delivers special events and workshops, and reentry programming that assists the Department of Corrections in preparing men for release from prison. The work is focused on the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (ERDCC) in Bonne Terre, Mo.

"We are delighted to return to the oversight of the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and grateful for the collaboration with former SPS dean, Jennifer Giancola, during the initial implementation of the associate of arts degree," said Kenneth Parker, Ph.D., director of the program. "Her leadership was key to the early success of this work."

Michael Barber, S.J., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, has expressed strong support for the Prison Program, which reflects the Catholic, Jesuit mission of Saint Louis University.

The SLU Prison Program has been sustained by grants and gifts totaling more than $500,000 to date, and has built a strong collaborative relationship with the Missouri Department of Corrections. Networks of cooperative engagement also exist with St. Louis City, the Federal Probation Office in St. Louis, and other government and nonprofit organizations.

In April 2013, the program hosted the third annual National Conference on Higher Education in Prisons. Mentoring of emerging programs at Washington University and Greenville College, as well as advocacy for the creation of programs at Boston College, College of the Holy Cross and Loyola University of Chicago, mark the SLU Prison Program as a national leader in the movement to bring higher education to prisons.

During Parker's sabbatical in spring 2014, Karen Barney, Ph.D., professor emerita and recently retired chair of the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, will serve as acting director of the SLU Prison Program.

"Professor Barney brings a wealth of professional and administrative experience to this role, and has a vision for collaboration between SLU's professional schools, colleges, and departments that will expand the internal university network engaged in this vital work with the Missouri Department of Corrections," Barber said.

Parker will return to this administrative role at the conclusion of his sabbatical.

For more information on the SLU Prison Program or to explore ways to become involved in this important work, contact Julie O'Heir, community outreach coordinator for the Prison Program, at

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