NASHVILLE (WSMV) - You know the phrase: Do the crime, serve the time.

But one local university is making sure prisoners leave with more than just time served.

Lipscomb University's LIFE program is one of only a few programs like it in the country offering higher education to inmates right alongside college students.

Jenica Gant tried for three years to get into the program at the Tennessee Prison for Women.

"I took the SAT almost four times to score high enough and outscore someone else to actually get accepted," Grant said.

The LIFE program stand for Lipscomb Initiative For Education. So far, it's helped 16 TPW inmates get associate degrees, six have graduated with bachelor's degrees and 11 more are working on their master's degrees.

"All of the general education classes are offered here, so our outside students can take any class here that's offered that they need," said Dr. Kate Watkins, who is the executive director of the program.

The program helps inmates focus on their next chapter.

"A lot of the ladies think or have thought in the past that this was something that they would never be able to do or this was beyond them or they were incapable of doing it. So, the program gives them that confidence that they need," said Dr. Sharon Matthews, the correctional principal at TPW.

It's the very thing Amelia Stem says has helped her as she prepares for her release next year.

"My value, the value of who I am and what I can contribute to the people around me ... also how my life, my decisions, my thoughts impact those around me," Stem said.

The LIFE program has been around since 2007, but it's most well-known participant is Cyntoia Brown. She was just granted clemency last month by former Gov. Bill Haslam, and she'll be released in August - three months after receiving her bachelor's degree through Lipscomb.

Click here for more information about the program.

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Lauren Lowrey joined News4 as an anchor in December 2018.

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