The Lipscomb Initiative for Education Program

The LIFE Program (Lipscomb Initiative for Education) provides Lipscomb University students an academic experience like few others. Each semester, traditional students enroll in a liberal arts course held on-site at the Tennessee Prison for Women (TPW) and study alongside residents of the prison (“inside students”). The mix of students and specifically designed coursework provides academic and character-building benefits for both students at the prison and students from campus.

LIFE students at TPW develop better self-confidence, expanded life experience and good study habits. Lipscomb’s traditional students are afforded an eye-opening experience to get to know and befriend their classmates who reside at the prison. Many students indicate that participating in the LIFE program has affected their life choices well after completing the class.

The program was founded in January 2007 by Lipscomb professor Richard Goode, who served as director of the LIFE program from 2007-2016. It began with 15 “inside students” and 15 “outside students.” Kate Watkins is the current director of the LIFE program.

In December 2013, the Lipscomb LIFE program celebrated a significant milestone as nine “inside” students completed the requirements for an associate degree from Lipscomb University. They received their diplomas in a special commencement inside the Tennessee Prison for Women. In December 2015, the second cohort of “inside” students earned their associate degree.

And in December 2017, six women completed their bachelor's degree in professional studies. They are currently pursuing graduate work at the prison. Several TPW students have also gone on to take additional courses on the Lipscomb campus after they are released.

LIFE is one of only a handful of programs in the U.S. to offer a college degree to prison inmates.