Georgia’s New Prison Education Initiatives

One credit shy of receiving a high school diploma, an inmate at Arrendale State Prison for women will soon be the first Georgia Department of Corrections inmate to graduate while incarcerated as part of a collaboration between the GDC and the Mountain Education Center Charter School.

The graduation was made possible by new laws that allowed for more classroom education and job training for inmates.

Gov. Nathan Deal updated state lawmakers on the program’s progress at a Tuesday luncheon to close out the Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s 29th Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators at the University of Georgia.

The measures were designed to fight the state’s 30 percent recidivism rate in one of the largest prison systems in the United States, and Deal noted that of the 60,000 inmates across Georgia’s prisons, just 700 were engaged in continuing education opportunities while incarcerated before he appointed former Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Buster Evans as GDC Assistant Commissioner.

The governor attributed the high prison re-entry numbers as a fault of the system, and the lack of education opportunities available to inmates who complete their sentences with no more marketable skills than when they were convicted.

“If you’re no better equipped when you leave prison, we should never expect great results,” he said.

Between July and October 2014, Deal noted, 4,500 inmates were enrolled in the GDC’s various job training and classroom education programs.

“That is a concrete example of what may have appeared, as you dealt with it, as abstract legislative language,” Deal said. “But that abstract language, when implemented, makes a difference in the lives of these individuals.”

Arrendale inmates will begin classes through the Mountain Education Center Charter School in January, and Deal said the program will expand in August with the Foothills Education Charter School, a collaboration between school districts in Clarke, Jackson and Madison counties.

Contact government and enterprise reporter Kelsey Cochran at (706) 208-2233.

By KELSEY COCHRAN
OnlineAthens.com

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