Bachelors behind bars: 13 women gain degrees from Christian college while in prison

Thirteen women serving time in a Louisiana jail have earned bachelor degrees from a Baptist college.

The first undergraduate degrees at Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women were awarded after five years.Baptist Press

Five years since the initiative was inaugurated, the first 13 women from the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women (LCIW) have graduated with bachelor degrees awarded by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's (NOBTS) Leavell College.

"God is a redeemer who takes what is broken and fixes it, who takes what is hopeless and restores it, who is able to take lives and circumstances and transform them into something good and beautiful," said NOBTS president Chuck Kelley.

"We are here because we know God is a redeemer."

LCIW is a maximum and a minimum security prison housing more than 900 female offenders.

This is the first time the degree programme has been offered to women, however NOBTS has been offering a similar programme for men for 20 years. There are currently 30 graduates from Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola serving as "missionaries" in other institutions.

"I don't know what God will do with you or through you, but I know He has plans," said Kelley.

"Get ready. Get busy. God has something He wants to do."

In his speech, he likened the women's journey to the biblical account of Joseph, who was sold into slavery. Although his brothers meant it for harm, God used it for good.

"We're here because we believe in you," said Kelley.

"And we believe that the power of your life given in ministry to others can make LCIW, and the wide world beyond, a different place."

Kristi Miller, assistant warden and director of the programme, told the graduates "This is an academic accomplishment, but that's not why I'm most proud.

"I'm proud of you walking in a manner worthy of your calling... You are making a difference in the lives of the women here," she said.