First in Georgia: inmates to earn diplomas behind bars

First in Georgia: inmates to earn diplomas behind bars

(Ga.) Nineteen women serving time in a Georgia prison received their high school diplomas last week through a new program aimed at lowering recidivism rates and pushing inmates to pursue higher education.

Created through a partnership between the Georgia Department of Corrections and Mountain Education Charter High School, the program marks the first opportunity in state history for inmates to earn a high school diploma instead of a General Equivalency Diploma. It is currently being piloted at the Lee Arrendale State Prison.

 “Based on the first six months alone, the results of the program have exceeded our expectations,” said Jen Talaber, spokesperson for Gov. Nathan Deal. “We have had almost twice the number of high school completions than we originally anticipated.”

Approximately 70 percent of the state’s inmates don’t have a diploma, and more than 30 percent of those released will end up back in prison within three years. There is a direct correlation between recidivism levels and education levels, according to research, and some believe that colleges and employers view high school diplomas as superior to a GED.

This new program, which began in January of this year, could give the women a better chance at furthering their education or getting a job upon their release.

Mountain Education Charter High School has served students with disciplinary issues since it was founded more than 20 years ago. It has also grown to include teen moms and students who need to make up credits in order to stay on track.

The school uses self-paced online learning for its incarcerated students who are identified as suitable candidates for the program.

Nearly 200 of the prison’s 1,400 inmates are under the age of 22, and Talaber said that approximately 35 will begin the program as new students in August. More students will begin as they are processed based on their age and their academic ability.

“We hope to find innovative ways to further expand the secondary and vocational programs that we offer,” she said. “In doing so, we feel we will keep learning relevant and applicable to future career options for the students.”

The program is part of Deal’s initiative to reform the more problematic parts of the state’s criminal justice system. In 2011, the incarceration budget was $1 billion dollars and the prison population had doubled to 56,000 in 20 years.

Three key areas were identified by a task force that provided recommendations for reforming accountability courts, the juvenile justice system and prisoner re-entry initiatives.

In an op-ed published by Huffington Post, Deal said that those who were released with a felony on their record but no diploma or job skills had little hope of attaining gainful employment and were often doomed to re-enter the prison system.

“In an effort to reduce recidivism and increase success for returning citizens and their families, we switched our focus to increasing educational opportunities for offenders through appropriate secondary educational programs,” Talaber said.

The success of the program in only six months has prompted the state to begin a similar program at Burruss Correctional Training Center for its male inmates. The Burruss program will begin next month through a partnership with Foothills Education Charter School, and will serve approximately 60 students.(Ga.) Nineteen women serving time in a Georgia prison received their high school diplomas last week through a new program aimed at lowering recidivism rates and pushing inmates to pursue higher education.

Created through a partnership between the Georgia Department of Corrections and Mountain Education Charter High School, the program marks the first opportunity in state history for inmates to earn a high school diploma instead of a General Equivalency Diploma. It is currently being piloted at the Lee Arrendale State Prison.

 “Based on the first six months alone, the results of the program have exceeded our expectations,” said Jen Talaber, spokesperson for Gov. Nathan Deal. “We have had almost twice the number of high school completions than we originally anticipated.”

Approximately 70 percent of the state’s inmates don’t have a diploma, and more than 30 percent of those released will end up back in prison within three years. There is a direct correlation between recidivism levels and education levels, according to research, and some believe that colleges and employers view high school diplomas as superior to a GED.

This new program, which began in January of this year, could give the women a better chance at furthering their education or getting a job upon their release.

Mountain Education Charter High School has served students with disciplinary issues since it was founded more than 20 years ago. It has also grown to include teen moms and students who need to make up credits in order to stay on track.

The school uses self-paced online learning for its incarcerated students who are identified as suitable candidates for the program.

Nearly 200 of the prison’s 1,400 inmates are under the age of 22, and Talaber said that approximately 35 will begin the program as new students in August. More students will begin as they are processed based on their age and their academic ability.

“We hope to find innovative ways to further expand the secondary and vocational programs that we offer,” she said. “In doing so, we feel we will keep learning relevant and applicable to future career options for the students.”

The program is part of Deal’s initiative to reform the more problematic parts of the state’s criminal justice system. In 2011, the incarceration budget was $1 billion dollars and the prison population had doubled to 56,000 in 20 years.

Three key areas were identified by a task force that provided recommendations for reforming accountability courts, the juvenile justice system and prisoner re-entry initiatives.

In an op-ed published by Huffington Post, Deal said that those who were released with a felony on their record but no diploma or job skills had little hope of attaining gainful employment and were often doomed to re-enter the prison system.

“In an effort to reduce recidivism and increase success for returning citizens and their families, we switched our focus to increasing educational opportunities for offenders through appropriate secondary educational programs,” Talaber said.

The success of the program in only six months has prompted the state to begin a similar program at Burruss Correctional Training Center for its male inmates. The Burruss program will begin next month through a partnership with Foothills Education Charter School, and will serve approximately 60 students.

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