Prisons in Illinois and across the country increasingly are allowing, even encouraging, evangelical and other Christian seminaries to offer courses and degrees to inmates.

North Park University’s seminary recently began a program at Stateville Correctional Center in the far southwest suburbs.

Downstate, the Danville Correctional Center “offers three four-year programs through Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary,” according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Religion News Service recently reported that prisoners “who get an education have a far lower incidence of repeating criminal behavior.”

But those inmates often don’t have the money to pay for traditional online or other correspondence courses.

According to the report, “Evangelical seminaries, led by Southern Baptist-affiliated schools, are increasingly stepping into the gap, raising money to offer inmates free, on-site college degrees.”

Such religious studies are intended to help inmates — especially those with life sentences or other lengthy terms — become better people and show “that their life still matters,” according to the Global Prison Seminaries Foundation.

The aim is also that they become “role models” in prison and “serve their peers,” creating a more peaceful environment and reducing recidivism.

The Religion Roundup is also featured on WBBM Newsradio (780 AM and 105.9 FM) on Sundays at 6:22 a.m., 9:22 a.m. and 9:22 p.m., except when preempted by Bears coverage. For more religion coverage, check out suntimes.com. Email tips and comments to Robert Herguth at rherguth@suntimes.com.