Kan. community college discontinues programs for corrections careers

"Training and education are not the priority right now. To close this program will hurt no one," said the VP of instruction


By Susan Thacker
Great Bend Tribune
        
GREAT BEND, Kan. — Barton Community College will discontinue a certificate and degree program in Corrections, Vice President of Instruction Elaine Simmons told the board of trustees last week. The program, launched in 2013, was intended for people interested in working in a corrections facility and for those already working in the industry who wanted to advance in their careers.

"Unfortunately, the program didn't take off as we all hoped and therefore we are moving forward to close the program," Simmons said.

The college will continue to offer some of the courses that were part of the program. These include Introduction to Corrections, Psychology of Criminal Conduct, Legal Issues in Corrections, and Oral Communications in the Correctional Environment.

Corrections officer Kaler Hazen works in a control pod in a cell block at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility in Ellsworth, Kan.
Corrections officer Kaler Hazen works in a control pod in a cell block at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility in Ellsworth, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The online program was created — after a lot of preparation, Simmons said — with input from key corrections officials. Then, as now, the Kansas Department of Corrections was having problems getting employees. KDOC Secretary Ray Roberts spoke to Barton trustees in 2012 about the soon-to-be-launched program.

"We would like to have the best-trained workforce and like for our employees to have the opportunity to grow," he said.

However, Simmons said only one or two students typically enroll in the 17-hour certificate program or the 68-credit-hour associate degree program.

"We have carried this program all these years but the program never had healthy enrollment," Simmons said. The college is also finding it more difficult to find adjunct faculty to teach all of the courses.

"The Kansas Department of Corrections is having even greater difficulties getting employees, but at this point they are working with wage increases as initiatives to bring more people into the field," she said. "Training and education are not the priority right now. To close this program will hurt no one."

Inmate education

While the certificate and degree programs for corrections careers in ending, Barton will continue to provide education for inmates.

Simmons stressed that this program closure is unrelated to the educational programs Barton offers to inmates at Ellsworth Correctional Facility and the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility. The college is no longer offering plumbing and carpentry programs at the prisons, but it does still teach welding and also has a program called BASICS — Building Academic Skills in Correctional Settings — that includes adult basic education.
     
(c)2022 Great Bend Tribune, Kan.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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