More than half of juveniles behind bars in the U.S. have at least one parent or guardian who is, or has been, in prison.
On Thursday, inmates at the London Correctional Institution (LoCI) donated to Creative Corrections Education Foundation (CCEF), an organization focused on breaking that cycle by providing scholarships to the children of currently or formerly incarcerated individuals.
Thursday’s $2,700 donation pushed the total dollar figure given by LoCI inmates above the $10,000 threshold.
More than half of the total funds donated to the foundation through Ohio prisons have been given by inmates of LoCI.
“All my life I’ve been doing wrong things. It feels good to do a good thing,” inmate John Claar said. “As a father, I know I never want my children to go through this.”
Claar, eight years into a 12-year sentence for burglary, is president of the inmate group that formed in May to support CCEF.
The education foundation was formed in March 2012 by a retired warden and his wife. So far, it has provided $95,000 in scholarships to students in 28 states, as well as $54,000 for enrollment expenses at technical colleges in Texas and Wisconsin.
Donations come from corporate partners as well as prison inmates. But 100 percent of the money donated by prison inmates is funneled directly into scholarships. Funds donated by prison inmates also stay within the state where the donor is incarcerated.
The average cost to a state to hold a prisoner for one year is $24,000, but the average cost for one year’s college tuition is $17,131, according to information provided in a foundation brochure.
CCEF executive director Anthony Haynes is also a retired warden. Haynes spoke to LoCI inmates Thursday. The stop was one of 27 on his multi-day tour of Ohio’s correctional facilities.
The tour was designed to raise awareness of the scholarship program among the incarcerated population.
“The children hit my heart,” Haynes said. “That’s why it’s so easy for me to do this.”
Students ages 15 to 27 are eligible to apply for scholarships. Younger students can use the scholarships to help pay for college-credit courses while still in high school, Haynes said.
LoCI inmates raised money this year through two fundraisers through which fellow inmates could purchase pieces of chicken from KFC and get photos taken to send to family members.
The inmate group at LoCI currently has 32 members. They have turned their fundraising campaign into a competition, Haynes said.
Inmates in Ohio have given nearly three times as much money to scholarships as inmates in the next highest contributing state, New Mexico, according to foundation documents.
Prison officials are working to add a $1 option to the commissary menu that would allow inmates to donate consistently in small increments.
Another fundraising idea pitched by Claar is to offer movie or televised-fight nights for a small donation.
The 46-year-old has no children still eligible to receive a college scholarship, but he hopes the program will eventually expand to grandchildren of incarcerated individuals. Claar has 11 grandchildren.
“Their education is the future,” he said. “It’s up to us to make a difference.”
Reach Audrey Ingram at 740-852-1616, ext. 1615 or on Twitter @Audrey.MP