Every year, as many as 1,000 people get an education in a somewhat unexpected setting: the Hamilton County jail, says the Cincinnati Enquirer. Last year Derrel Anderson became one of them. It changed his life. Anderson was among 127 inmates to earn a high school equivalency (GED) diploma while incarcerated. Last year the jail’s GED program had one of the highest passage rates in the area. Of inmates who took the test, 83 percent passed, said Marian Alswager, inmate education coordinator. The statewide passage rate was 74 percent in 2006.
The program is unique among Ohio jail-based programs in that it uses full-time teachers and is operated by the sheriff’s office rather than an outside agency. The sheriff’s office foots 70 percent of the cost. Studies have shown that inmates who participate in education programs while incarcerated are less likely to return to prison than those who don’t, says the Journal of Correctional Education. A 2003 study by the Correctional Education Association found that of the Ohio inmates who took educational courses while incarcerated, 26 percent ended up back in prison compared with 31 percent of inmates who did not take courses. Jerry McGlone, superintendent of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s education system, estimates 80 percent of prison inmates are high school dropouts.