Williamsport, Pa. — Members of a recently formed student organization at Pennsylvania College of Technology and their adviser have provided Tioga County Prison with a new bookshelf packed full of educational materials.
The students are members of the Collegiate Association for County Correctional Education (CACCE). The organization’s mission is to increase the educational resources available to those incarcerated in local county correctional facilities.
After receiving a “behind-the-scenes” look at the operation of the facility from Tioga County Prison Supervisor Thomas Kerr, the students organized materials in the jail library. They brought a variety of new, high-quality textbooks that had been donated by the staff and faculty of Penn College’s School of Integrated Studies. The bookshelf they installed was donated by the college.
The CACCE is the first student organization in America specifically focused on enhancing educational opportunities for those incarcerated in county jails.
“We do this because we believe that these materials will give incarcerated individuals a more constructive way to use their time,” said Brandon J. Close, the Penn College CACCE president.
The CACCE sees a broader application of correctional education, advocating for correctional education because of the link between educational gains, better employment and community health.
“Research from state correctional institutions shows that correctional education leads to fewer repeat offenses, but it is rare for county jails to be given money by the state to provide programs for the incarcerated,” said Jeremiah C. Gee, CACCE adviser and assessment coordinator for the college’s School of Integrated Studies. “So, it’s up to each of us to take on a community mindset and do what we can to help our fellow citizens leave jail with more education.”
Gee has been teaching GED classes at Tioga County Prison for five years and researches county-jail programming and re-entry through his doctoral work at Penn State.
“The outreach efforts by students involved in CACCE represent service learning at its best,” said Ward W. Caldwell, special assistant to the president for student affairs at Penn College. “The students are providing a meaningful, altruistic service while having experiences and gaining skills that will serve them well as students and graduates.”
“I have been impressed with the impact that this young student organization has already made on the local community,” said Kimberly R. Cassel, the college’s director of student activities. “Their excitement and enthusiasm is contagious, and they are really setting the bar high for all of our other student organizations.”
On the Spring 2009 agenda for CACCE is another library-enhancement project at a local county jail. The group has also been invited to tour the schools on Rikers Island, which is New York City’s jail system and home to one of the world’s largest correctional-education systems.