Part I: ‘Ole Miss’ and Marshall County Expand Partnership

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In an ongoing effort to provide greater opportunity for lasting change in the lives of their residents, the Marshall County Correctional Facility has established a partnership with Ole Miss University, about 40 minutes away.

The partnership is multi-faceted. Criminal justice majors from Ole Miss regularly intern at the facility. Law students come by to conduct legal seminars. Service projects are made possible. And volunteer instructors teach cutting-edge programming to residents.

The facility is grateful to the university for its willingness to be such a vital, committed partner, and the university is likewise grateful to the facility for their responsiveness.

Dr. Linda Keena is the chair of the University’s department of legal studies and a volunteer instructor at Marshall County.

“Well, it’s a dream for me,” Dr. Keena says of the partnership. “Because they’ve been so responsive, I can go to administration and say, ‘This is what I’m learning from the offenders, this is the research that’s out here, these are the things I think we might be able to try, and see if it works here.’ And they’ve said, ‘let’s try it.’ Throughout the course of a semester, I have faculty members from all disciplines that travel up to the institution and work with the offenders, so it’s growing. That’s only because Marshall County really respects that relationship we have with the institution, and we both benefit.”

Professor Debbie Bell, with the university’s school of law, assists with the legal seminars conducted by students for the Marshall County residents. She, too, has experienced the facility’s eagerness to work with the university.

“They’ve been very responsive,” she agrees, “and they seem really excited about the program. I’ve been really impressed. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this with a prison, and I am just overwhelmed by how welcoming they are and how excited they are about the project. Every time I leave, I’m so excited; and not just excited because, ‘oh, we’ve done something that might be helpful,’ but excited about the exchange.”

Law student Bri Warner agrees. She says, “Every time I’ve gone, and I’ve gone several times now, beforehand, I just sit there thinking: What kind of questions are they going to throw at me? What kind of way could this law or this statute be applied that I haven’t thought about yet, but that they are thinking about? It’s exciting, it keeps me on my toes.”

“And my experience was incredible,” says law student Brittney Eakins. “These men were thoughtful, they were smart, they were very attentive. “We leave feeling so fulfilled, and just excited about what we’re doing.”

In Part II of this story, we’ll take a closer look at the residents of the facility, and how they feel about the many ways the partnership with Ole Miss University is benefiting their lives.

“These people really care,” says resident Erick Howard. “I would be less than myself to say that, and not mean it from my heart. They genuinely care.”