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Prison Initiative

To know Him and to make Him known "behind the walls"

Prison InitiativeOver 95 percent of all South Carolina prison inmates will return to our streets. Will they return changed men and women or will they find themselves once again behind bars?

Studies show that consistent participation in faith-based programs in prison creates safer prisons and reduces the percentage of inmates who return to a life of crime, and ultimately return to prison. That's why Columbia International University has created the Prison Initiative.
The mission of the initiative is to train inmates to live in accordance with biblical principles and to equip them for the unique ministry opportunities available to them because of their incarceration. This will be achieved through an accredited Associate of Arts program designed for inmates. Improving the culture of our prisons, exposing inmates to the gospel and offering inmates an opportunity to grow to maturity in their faith will have an impact on many of the 15,000 inmates released from South Carolina prisons each year.

After visiting Angola Prison in Louisiana and seeing the impact of a seminary program there, South Carolina Corrections Director Jon Ozmint has pledged his cooperation with Columbia International University in this endeavor.

"While there are distinct differences between Angola and our prison system in South Carolina, those differences can be accommodated by developing a program that would fit our needs. Under the direction of Dr. David Osterlund, CIU has accommodated those differences. The spiritual impact of the program is undeniable. What is also undeniable is the positive impact that serious faith-based program participation has on individual inmates and on the system as a whole. The long-term and proven results of the privately funded program will be safer prisons and lower recidivism. In that respect, it will benefit all South Carolina taxpayers."

The program will be offered only to inmates who meet and maintain high standards of personal conduct and CIU's standards for academic achievement.

The curriculum consists of 70 undergraduate hours:

32 in a Bible and Theology
25 Credits of General Education including Math, English, History and Psychology
13 Credits of General Ministry Skills including Evangelism, Missions and Preaching

The intercultural studies classes will assist in penetrating the barriers between the ethnic groups within the prison, and the field education experiences will be classes where learning is applied through the teaching of the Bible, sharing of one's faith, and opportunities to preach. The English and speech classes will allow for more effective communication. The humanities will broaden the "missionary's" life experiences and provide points of contact with other inmates, and the psychology classes will develop interpersonal skills. Math and education classes will round out the accredited program.

The Prison Initiative is asking South Carolina churches, businesses, and individuals to financially support this endeavor. By law, incarcerated inmates are not eligible for state or federal aid. They are required to work, but most are not paid for their labor. They are willing to learn and serve, but they need your help.

Funds donated to the effort will be put into a scholarship account at CIU to be used solely by inmates in the program.

Gifts are tax-deductible. To contribute or for more information, call us at (803) 807-5020, or toll free at (800) 777-2227 (ext. 5020). You can also reach us by e-mail at