Nashville State Community College awards Associate degrees to 23 inmates in partnership with the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative

Nashville State President Shanna Jackson addresses graduates

Twenty-three inmates at Tennessee’s Turney Center Industrial Complex were awarded their Associates degrees by Nashville State Community College during a special graduation ceremony Jan.24 at the prison near Only, Tenn.

The graduates are students of the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative (THEI), a Nashville based non-profit organization that works with the Tennessee Department of Correction and local colleges to bring degree-bearing college programming into Tennessee prisons, helping prepare students for skillful re-entry upon their release and reducing barriers to continued education and achievement.

Nashville State President Shanna Jackson was among the college, THEI and Department of Correction officials who addressed the graduates and their families.

Currently, THEI enrolls 115 students at two prisons: Turney Center Industrial Complex, in partnership with Nashville State, and at Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville, in partnership with Dyersburg State Community College. Since the program launched in 2012, at the state’s now-closed Charles Bass Correctional Complex in Nashville with Nashville State and Lipscomb University, it has helped more than 300 people behind bars work toward earning their college degrees.

For more information about Nashville State, visit, for more information about the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative, visit the THEI website at, and see a NewsChannel5 story on the Turney Center graduation at

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.