Barton Community College is closing its plumbing and carpentry programs at the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility (LCMHF), said vice president of education Elaine Simmons. The welding program continues.
Recent updates to vendor contracts with the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) have cut funding for Barton, Simmons said.
“This change will impact the education and training provided at area correctional facilities, Ellsworth and Larned,” Simmons said. “Residents of these institutions will continue to receive adult education services and limited vocational technical training. In addition, the college will work to expand its academic offerings available at facilities while moving some vocational technical education programs to its Barton County campus.
Simmons discussed some of the plans during the BCC board study session last Tuesday and then provided additional information to the Great Bend Tribune. Barton is a long-term partner and contract provider for the KDOC and became a member of the Kansas Consortium for Correctional Higher Education when it formed in 2020. Simmons then warned college administrators that more educational institutions would be. competing for KDOC contracts.
In 2018, a new vocational training center opened at LCMHF to lead industry-recognized programs in carpentry, plumbing and welding through Barton. (Although the prison’s mission has shifted from mental health to vocational rehabilitation, its official name is still LCMHF.)
“It’s just going to be about welding,” Simmons said.
“Our local (fixes) establishments have not abandoned us,” Simmons told the board. “Ellsworth and Larned remain good partners for this institution. We have to take a Cadillac and turn it into a buggy for a while, and see where the buggy takes us.
KDOC is exploring a new model of inmate education that uses multiple service providers and makes the services provided more equitable in correctional facilities, Simmons said.
Barton President Dr Carl Heilman added: “The format is changing. We do not agree with the change. (However), “the discussion is still going on, and that’s a good sign.”
Simmons continues to serve on the consortium’s board of directors.
Board Chairman Mike Johnson commented on Barton’s role as a leader in education in correctional facilities for the past two decades.
“It concerns me,” Johnson said of the latest development. “I understand they want to provide more services across the state, but I think we’re the flagship program. We have the first training.
Simmon said the college is still respected in the industry and is looking for areas to develop.
“Barton is a recognized leader in the field of correctional education and had the opportunity to participate in the Second Chance Pell program last year,” said Simmons. “Residents of local facilities have the opportunity to apply for federal funds to support participation in university technical and vocational education offerings. The college also sponsors a BASICS (Building Academic Skills in Correctional Settings) scholarship program funded through the generosity of donors in the region.