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Inmates taking advantage of GED prep, tests

Instructor Gary Taylor meets with GED students at county jail.Inmates at county jail who don’t have a high school diploma have ample opportunity to make good use of all that spare time on their hands.

And judging from the number of inmates who have received their GED high school equivalency degrees in recent years, a respectable number are taking advantage of a program offered jointly by the school district’s adult education program and the sheriff’s department.

“The purpose is to get them to complete the education that they started and for one reason or another didn’t complete,” said Ann Watts, the school district’s director of career and adult education.

“Many of them have the maturity level where they now can see the value in it [getting a GED] and they’ve decided this is a good use of their time,” she said.

The study course that draws mostly local inmates but can also include those in the custody of the US Marshals Service is held once a week on Fridays for six hours of individual and group instruction by Gary Taylor, who teaches a similar course at Baker Correctional.

It takes between 120-160 days to complete the requirements and pass the test, and in 2010-11 seven of the 11 inmates enrolled did so. Last year the figures jumped a bit with 11 graduates among the 18 enrollees.

Students are both male and female, though the classes are not co-ed.

According to Sam Kitching, who coordinates GED studies for the sheriff’s department, the class roll is running about the same this year.

So why do inmates, other than the fact that they have time on their hands, decide to enter the program?

Mr. Kitching says he’s made several observations.

“The three things I hear most are, first, ‘I might as well do something useful while I’m in here’; second, ‘I tried this once before, but I think I can do this now’; and third, ‘I would really like to do this because when I get out of here I can do something useful and get a job easier,’” he said.

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