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Cellblock Schooling

by: Nick Yamamoto/Staff Writer

When picking classes, there are the obvious choices, such as attending the Mattoon campus or the Kluthe Center, or taking classes online. But there are even more off the map locations, like the Kaskaskia building in Vandalia. Lake Land College also offers services at 17 different prisons within the state of Illinois.

Headed by Linda Von Behren as Associate Vice President for Workforce Development, and Tom Kerkhoff as Executive Dean, the prison program offers prisoners a chance to prepare for life outside prison walls. The only requirements for prisoners to attend classes are a high school diploma or GED and they must read at an 8th grade level.


DOC students constructing houses at the Taylorville Correctional Center.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Forneris

When asked, Behren stated that the program has anywhere between 3800-3900 students a year. The students are offered several different courses of study, from heating and air conditioning services to horticulture to cosmetology to welding technology. In all, there are 14 different courses and one four-week career tech program, which teaches inmates how to conduct themselves in an interview, money management and how to build a resume.

In an interview with a former recipient of this service, who has chosen to remain anonymous, he/she said, “It was interesting, and it really took my mind off the fact that I was in prison.” This anonymous source also mentioned another possible benefit of taking the courses was a small shortening of the sentence, but it was not made clear whether or not this option is still offered to the prisoners. This person has since gone on to become a welder and currently holds a steady job. “The courses offered by Lake Land really did help me, not just inside, but outside too and I am very thankful for it.”

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