RICHMOND — Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that Virginia has received national recognition for an educational effort that allows offenders in Virginia’s prisons to be eligible for college credit for five career and technical education courses.
The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) received the prestigious State Transformation in Action (STAR) Award from the Council of State Government’s Southern Legislative Conference during the organization’s annual meeting July 13 in Kentucky.
“The STAR Award reflects Virginia’s intense focus on successful offender reentry and a brighter, safer Commonwealth for all of us,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Virginia boasts one of the lowest recidivism rates in the nation, and this is due in part to our ongoing efforts to promote offender education.”
Retroactive to January 2014, offenders in Virginia’s prisons are now eligible for college credit for five CTE courses recommended by the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT®). Those courses are Introduction to Business, Business and Software Applications, Commercial Arts & Design, Computer-Aided Drafting, and Digital Print Production.
“Research shows that ex-offenders who acquired college credit while incarcerated have greater success as they reenter their communities and lower recidivism rates,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “Offenders who take these classes are putting themselves on a path to productive citizenship when they are released and helping to make our communities safer.”
ACE CREDIT recommendations enable learners to submit an ACE transcript for completed courses to higher education institutions for evaluation as potential transfer credit in a degree program, much as they would from a traditional institution of higher learning. Decisions about acceptance of credit are made by individual colleges and universities.
“Many of Virginia’s offenders are learning to make better choices through education,” said Harold Clarke, VADOC Director. “Our teachers and principals in the prison system have worked very hard to make this happen.” VADOC is nation’s only correctional system to hold ACE CREDIT recommendations.
The Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) is a regional legislative group operating under The Council of State Governments that seeks to promote innovative programs and ideas in Virginia and 14 other southern states. The STAR Award recognizes programs for their creativity, impact, transferability and effectiveness.
SLC received 30 nominees for this year’s STAR Award. The VADOC was one of two STAR winners among six finalists. The Virginia Department of Transportation received the other STAR Award.
This is VADOC’s third STAR Award since 2013. Three years ago, VADOC received the STAR Award for its Segregation Step-Down program that utilizes evidence-based practices to provide offenders with a safe and secure way to progress to lower security settings. In 2014, VADOC shared honors with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles for a collaborative effort to provide valid state identification to offenders before they returned to their communities.
More information on the VADOC can be found at www.vadoc.virginia.gov.