Inmates take college courses and high school equivalency programs at two state prisons

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Education is making a comeback in Mississippi prisons to reach pre-pandemic operations through intensified rehabilitation programs.

Today, 39 inmates at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) received their high school equivalency diplomas, commonly referred to as GEDs or the new HiSET, after completing years of high school education. Inmates also took courses in business technology and clothing and textiles. Also this week, 18 inmates at Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman received certificates for completing their first three hours of college credit through the prison’s new alliance with Mississippi Delta Community College.

MDOC commissioner Burl Cain, who promotes reintegration programs to prepare inmates for life on the outside, said the courses are designed for those who are completing their sentences and those who hope to one day be paroled. He says the rise of education in prisons is giving them a foundation of education they will need to enter the workforce.

During a morning ceremony at the CMCF gymnasium, male and female inmates entered “Pomp and Circumstance” to celebrate their accomplishments. Carla Causey, associate director of adult education and program quality for the Mississippi Community College Board, addressed inmates noting that she started as a correctional officer at CMCF in 2006 and then became an alcoholism counselor. and drug addiction, and later turned his career into service through education.

“No one can take away what you know. In your mind, you can choose to do something different, ”Causey said. “I am proud of you for making the choice in the midst of the turmoil to improve yourself.” During his address, Causey encouraged detained students to be transparent, passionate, to have purpose and to make good choices.

For inmate Steven Miller, obtaining his GED after recently turning 50 is a proud step in life. “This is my first academic achievement and I feel really good and proud of myself. It seems like every time I tried to elevate myself before I made mistakes, so I really appreciate this opportunity to get it right, ”Miller said.

Sitting across the gym, inmate Darlene Twiggs said she felt proud to have accomplished a personal feat. “It’s amazing. Every inmate should take advantage of these programs. It was a personal goal for me to complete. It gives me a sense of self worth,” Twiggs said.

Just 24 hours earlier, the group of men at Parchman Prison celebrated another milestone in their quest for college education. Certificates have been issued for Beginner English, English Composition and Intermediate English. Plans are underway for inmates to move forward, starting the next cycle of the same subjects.

In this new college program, funding was made available when the Mississippi Humanities Council wrote an application in late December 2020 and won a grant provided by the Andrew W. Melon Foundation. The grant covered compensation for instructors and supplies provided by Mississippi Delta Community College. The grant also covered the hiring of a training coordinator who facilitated program operations among participating partners, including Hinds Community College, Northeast Mississippi Community College, and Jones College in southern Mississippi, which recently joined the program.

All lawmakers who represent the Parchman area attended the ceremony. Delta Representative Tracey Rosebud said, “It shows these gentlemen that they can get things done no matter what they have faced in the past. And it gives them hope for the future.

Inmate student Jacob Walker was one of the students who attended the English for Beginners course and spoke during the ceremony about what success means to him. “Everything you want to do in this life is going to start with the mind itself. In order for you to have a positive life, you have to educate yourself,” Walker said.

Walker, who is a U.S. Army veteran, expects release in 10 months and plans to continue his education at a junior college in business management and start his own business, possibly in agriculture. . “(This course) has been a great opportunity for me and it has helped me raise and further my education and made me a better person,” Walker said. “It’s very important for inmates to be part of this program. I hope more programs like this will be offered as it will really help the inmates. “

Inmate student DeCarlos Jenkins said living a positive life can serve as a role model for others. “You can always do things for the positive. You can always do things for the community to send a message to the younger ones who might be on the wrong track that there is a chance. It’s always a chance for you, ”Jenkins said.


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