The Rhodes College Liberal Arts in Prison Program was launched in 2016 at the Women’s Therapeutic Residential Center (WTRC), a 1200-bed state facility in Henning, TN. Between 2016 and 2019 Rhodes offered a Great Books Reading Group at WTRC which brought Rhodes professors to the prison in two-week stints to teach texts of their choice. In 2019 Rhodes began offering a for-credit certificate program called “Culture & Values” that was modeled on the “Search for Values” that has been a signature feature of the Rhodes curriculum since 1946.

At WTRC, the 4-course “Culture & Values” sequence begins with the Epic of Gilgamesh (a Sumerian poem from the 3rd millennium BCE) and ends with 20th century texts from authors such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Elie Wiesel and Toni Morrison. Highlights of the two-year program include works by Homer, Herodotus, Aeschylus, Plato, Vergil, Augustine, Boethius, Dante, Luther, Machiavelli, Milton, Adam Smith, Mary Shelley, and Frederick Douglass.” Culture & Values” is team-taught by Rhodes professors who have expertise in teaching them and have often made them subjects of their scholarly work. The first cohort of 5 graduates received their certificates in 2021; a second cohort of 7 graduates finished in 2022.

Since 2019 the Rhodes Liberal Arts in Prison Program has involved on-campus undergraduates as tutors, with between 10 and 20 students active in a given semester. Many of these students volunteer while taking a course titled “Mass Incarceration: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives,” which prepares them for visiting the prison and aids them in interpreting their experiences with our incarcerated students.

During the summer of 2022 Rhodes offered an elective course for graduates of the Culture & Values program, a 5-week intensive class on the Holocaust with Prof. Stephen Haynes, Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Liberal Arts in Prison Program. Rhodes plans to continue to expand its offerings at WTRC going forward. Since the beginning, the success of the Liberal Arts in Prison Program has been made possible with the support of prison and corrections staff, especially Dr. Damien Hodge, Post-Secondary Education Liaison for TDOC, and Dr. Heather Bonds, Principal at WTRC.

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