A Milestone for the Calvin Prison Initiative

This article appears in the Stories edition of the Calvin Seminary Forum

The Calvin Prison Initiative is well known in Michigan educational circles, but now it is recognized at the national level as well. James Kvaal, U.S. Under Secretary of Education, visited Handlon Prison on Aug. 30 in order to personally observe the transformative impact of the CPI program.

During the site visit, Kvaal and other federal officials were able to see first-hand how CPI infuses inmates’ lives with hope, and how CPI students have become leaders and role models within the prison community. Kvaal is interested in exploring how the CPI model of education could be adapted and expanded to prison facilities throughout the nation.

Reflecting on this momentous site visit, the CPI Foundation Board Chair, Sidney Jansma Jr., marveled at how far the CPI program has come since it first began. The idea for CPI was born in 2012, when several professors at Calvin Seminary felt God’s calling to offer higher education to prisoners. To turn this idea into reality, the Seminary partnered with Calvin University. In this unique partnership, the University facilitates the program’s teaching, and the Seminary facilitates the program’s fundraising. The first CPI cohort consisted of 20 students; today, the program enrolls 96 students each year. To date, the program has awarded 45 bachelor’s degrees, 76 associate’s degrees, and 104 certificates.

For Jansma, the biggest highlight of the Under Secretary’s site visit was seeing so many key people come together at Handlon to underscore their commitment to the CPI program. The gathering included MDOC Director Heidi Washington, Warden Melinda Brayman, CPI Director Todd Cioffi, CPI Director of Operations Kary Bosma, Calvin Seminary President Jul Medenblik, Calvin University President Wiebe Boer, and student body representative Raymond Potts. “It was remarkable to see their shared commitment,” Jansma said. “The site visit has definitely given CPI a higher profile than ever before.”