Prison GED Program

POSTED: Friday, April 17, 2009 - 5:12pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:58pm

They’re programs designed to keep inmates from coming back to jail but some officials say the current prison is making it difficult to get people to the classes they need.

It had the Pomp and Circumstance, the tassels, and the proud family in the wings but this isn’t your typical graduation. Program graduate William Hawkins says, “It’s going to make all the difference in the world.” All of these new grads are also inmates in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison and getting their GED, they’re hoping is a first step towards a new life.

Graduate Latonya Bankston says, “I actually completed something for the first time in my life and that was today.” Christine Powell agrees, “When I get home, we won’t be living the same life we were before. When I get home I can go to school, get a good education, and provide for my family.”

Authorities hope programs like this one will stop the revolving door of prison. EBR Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said, “We’ve realized that what we’ve done in the past is not working. We have to reduce the amount of recidivism. 75% of inmates nationwide within 3 to 5 years of their release will be back in prison.”

Now just in the past year they’ve added 7 of these self help programs, but the problem becomes they just don’t have enough room to house the inmates in classes. Inmate instructor Becky Morgan says, “We have a waiting list many times for those that want to be here.” A list sometimes 30 deep for seminars like the GED class or vocational training. EBR prison warden Col. Dennis Grimes says, “We don’t have the space to accommodate all the people we need to put in programs.” It is something they say will only change with a new prison. “We’re in dire need of a new facility.” Looking for a bigger space and a bigger role in the future of those incarcerated.

Funding for the prison was defeated as part of a bill last year. They Mayor should present a new proposal for the money this fall.