Growing Educational Opportunities for Prisoners

Welding Instructor Tucker Bauman (left) / Image courtesy www.oregon.gov
Welding Instructor Tucker Bauman (left) / Image courtesy www.oregon.gov

By Christopher Zoukis

Turning hardened criminals into productive members of society does not happen on its own, it takes an education. With 68 percent of prisoners without a high school diploma or a GED, there is no better time than now to educate our nations’ prisoners.

Such is the case in the Oregon Department of Corrections.

Seeing the need to provide its prisoners with an education, ODC has teamed up with Central Oregon Community College to bring a trade skill to those behind the wall. Adult Basic Education, GED test preparation, and programs in welding and manufacturing that earn college credits are among the programs offered to prisoners.

Tucker Bauman has been instructing the welding program since 2009. He earned his associate of applied science degree in manufacturing technology while attending COCC.

The welding program is only offered to students with a high school diploma or GED, a reading score of 242 and a math score of 236, and only accepts 10 students. The program spans 19 classes that earn a student 45 credits, and a one year certificate through the college. To date, 63 students have completed this program.

At the Deer Ridge Correctional Institution, every student is required to have a GED or high school diploma. For every student without one, classes are available, free, to aid the student in attaining a GED. With a 98 percent passing rate, it appears this program is working well. Every GED earned will give a student a chance at a brighter future, and they can also tutor future GED students.

According to the Broadside, a local news outlet, the prison is looking to expand its programs to provide a diagnostician for learning disabled students.

It appears prisons are beginning to understand the value of educating their prisoners. As in this case, students are provided a basic education and a valuable trade that can be used to build a career, provide for their families and contribute to society, thus staying out of prison.

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