North Carolina Prisons Add Technology to Rehabilitation Toolbox

By Christopher Zoukis There are more than 37,000 inmates in 55 prison facilities in North Carolina. Each year, more than 20,000 inmates are released. In fact, 98% of the entire country’s inmates will be released at some point in the

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When GEDs mean failure for prisoners

Last year when changes to the GED programs were first announced, analysts predicted it would have a serious impact on the ability of prisoners to acquire their certificates.  A year later, those predictions have proven accurate. Prison GED success rates have dropped

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Pitfall in path to Pell Grants

The recent announcements of the pilot project restoring Pell Grants to qualified inmates has been greeted almost universally with praise; there is no question that the positive social and economic outcomes of this initiative will be huge.  But while we

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A Success Story: Justin L. Donohue

By Justin L. Donohue  Image courtesy zimbio.com I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate these messages (Prison News Service). I have learned so much since I started reading them. I also wanted you to know that as

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Jail GED Programs Help Educate Inmates on Brighter Future

By Leah Binkovitz / Houston Chronicle  Fort Bend County Jail / Image courtesy jailstuff.org Ramiro Eric Avalos just celebrated his 32nd birthday – his third awaiting trial in the Fort Bend County jail. “It’s not depressing like it used to

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Wyoming’s Impressive Recidivism Rate At Risk From Funding Cuts

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy doc.state.wy.us-

The Wyoming Department of Corrections is proud to have the second lowest recidivism rate in the nation, 38% below the national average.  Three out of four offenders released from Wyoming’s prisons stay out.  Department of Corrections officials believe their prison education programs are, to a large extent, responsible for their success.

Prison population grows despite low crime rates.

Wyoming’s lawless Wild West days are firmly in the past.  The state’s crime rates are well below national averages.  Violent crimes are 43% below national rates, and property crimes 22% lower.  Burglaries are just half the national average, and robberies a tenth.

As a consequence, the state’s prison population is small at about 2,200.  Yet, despite the low crime and impressive re-incarceration rates for released offenders, the prison population has grown by almost a third since 2000.  In fact over the decade to 2010, the rate by which Wyoming’s prison population increased was double that for the rest of the country.  It now appears to have leveled off.

Funding cuts threaten rehabilitation.

As has happened across the country, funding for public services, including prisons, has been cut.  Betty Abbott, Education Programs Manager for the Department of Corrections recognizes that education and programming usually bear the brunt of such cuts.  Despite now being underfunded, she must do the best with what is available.

Fortunately, Wyoming’s prison population is better educated than most.  While nationally about 40% of state prisoners have neither a high school diploma nor a GED, the majority of Wyoming’s prisoners do have one or the other.  Those who do not must take mandatory GED classes.  About 20% of current Wyoming inmates obtained their GED while in prison.

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Valley State Prison Inmates Receive Degrees, Certificates

Staff Report – Merced Sun-Star  Valley State Prison / Image courtesy www.cdcr.ca.gov

Inmates at Valley State Prison last week took a step toward a brighter future.

On Nov. 6, 125 graduates from the Valley State Adult School at Valley State Prison walked down the aisle to receive recognition and their diplomas for their hard work and dedication. This is a big event in the lives of the inmates trying to benefit from a bad situation. Valley State Prison converted from an all-female facility to a level II male facility in January. It has been the focus of Principal Zack Patrick to provide a solid and successful educational experience for the new male population. From the beginning of the conversion, education and vocational training was a focal point for Patrick and Warden Ron Davis.

“Many of the inmates are tired of the negative lifestyle that landed them in prison and want to take steps to correct their behavior. Today 125 men took that first step to better serve themselves through education,” said Davis. “I want to thank Mr. Patrick and his team of quality educators for inspiring these men to succeed.”

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General Educational Development

By Richard Foster

Ninety-five percent of American prisoners will be released back into society, based on information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. One of the most important goals of the criminal justice system is to reduce the likelihood they will recidivate upon release. Research shows that completion of a GED during incarceration reduces the percent of recidivism by approximately five percent. The Bureau also reports that, “As of June 30, 2009, state and federal correctional authorities had jurisdiction over 1,617,478 prisoners.” Five percent would therefore be equivalent to around 80,000 fewer returnees.  Image courtesy colletonae.com –

According to the U. S. Department of Justice: FY 2011 Budget Request, “As a result of successful law enforcement policies, the number of criminal suspects appearing in federal court continues to grow, as does the number of individuals ordered detained and ultimately incarcerated.” It goes on to explain that the number of FY 2010 prisoners was 215,000 which is expected to rise approximately 3.2% in FY 2011, up 7,000 to 222,000 inmates.

The notion that an increase in the inmate population represents success could be viewed differently. These 7,000 suspects, detainees, and convicts are representative of two categories of offenders. Some are new to the federal system, yet many are returning after previous incarceration. Whether for parole violations or due to new charges being filed, recidivism rates account for an unnecessarily large proportion of those within our prison system. The Pew Center on the States’ report, State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons, April 13, 2011, reports that based on the data received by 41 states on prisoners released in 2004, after three years, the normal time period for these studies, there was a recidivism rate of 43.3%. This represents almost  half the inmates released. It is no wonder that the U.S. has the largest percentage of its population incarcerated, as many of those who recidivate end up back in prison. Again, according to the Pew study, “…, incarceration levels had risen to a point where one in 100 American adults was behind bars. A second Pew study the following year added another disturbing dimension to the picture, revealing that one in 31 adults in the United States was either incarcerated or on probation or parole.”

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From Finance to Degrees, U.S. Adult Education is Fraught with Fraud

By Garry W. Johnson

You just can’t trust anybody anymore.  GED and college correspondence graduates are finding more and more that the certificates they worked so hard for (and/or paid through the nose for) are not worth the paper they are printed on. Even worse, some are being ripped off through scholarship scams with nothing to show for their effort but debt.

If you’ve come into the prison system and find yourself sitting in a GED class because your credentials were “unverifiable,” you are not alone. Students across the country are finding GEDs they paid as much as $1,500 for are nothing more than counterfeits produced by a “diploma mill.”  Image courtesy newongumshoe.blogspot.com 

These non-accredited correspondence or distance learning schools have been around for decades, but the internet has now en­abled them to reach a much larger audience and expand more into the GED market.

As Washington continues to monkey with the unstable economy and unemploy­ment skyrockets, high school dropouts are finding themselves with even poorer job prospects and turning to these mills in desperation. Statistics from the official General Education Development (GED) program in North Carolina show 14,364 people completing the test in the fiscal year 2011-2012. That was up from 13,028 in 2009-2010 and 12,817 the year before that.

Instead of increasing their ability to ob­tain or hold a job, the victims of GED scams find themselves squandering money they don’t have and making themselves subject to job termination, lawsuits and criminal prosecution. “I don’t know how someone who has any kind of conscience can make money from people who are already struggling,” said C.T. Turner, spokesman for the GED Testing Service in Washington.

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