Washington State House Democrats


Inmates pursue GED in hopes of turning lives around

What purpose, jail and prison? Any conversation about incarceration must inevitably morph into the long-standing debate pitting “rehabilitation versus punishment.”

One generally accepted truth is that the vast majority of men and women behind bars eventually get out. In fact, a 2011 study puts that figure at 95 percent. Most everyone also agrees an inmate released unchanged is an inmate all-too-likely to reoffend. It’s called recidivism. Another report that same year notes the depressing reality that 70 percent of released prisoners reoffend, and half of the former inmates are back in prison in three years’ time.

Repeat offenders exact a heavy toll beyond the obvious hit to public safety: recidivism slams public budgets with an increasingly devastating price tag.

So it’s no wonder that so many public-policy ideas emphasize turning convicts around before they come back to town. And education is a key component.  A South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) item in the electronic publication ThurstonTalk.com reports an innovative approach for turning the incarcerated into the instructed. Many inmates serving time in the Thurston County jail are earning their General Education Development (GED) certificate through SPSCC classes. More than 2,100 students have embraced the program in its less-than 10 years up and running, and almost 300 of them have earned their GED.

For more information, contact Bonnie Rose, Adult Basic Education instructor,  brose@spscc.edu. Check the National Institute of Justice and the Prison Studies Project websites.