More Michigan inmates are earning their General Educational Development certificates and getting vocational training behind bars under a Michigan law that made GED a requirement for parole, reports the Detroit News. A record number of inmates — 3,814 — completed the five-part test last year. About half of Michigan’s 50,000 inmates enter prison without a high school diploma. Under a 1998 law, those inmates, with a few exceptions, must earn a GED before they leave prison. Many states require general education or offer incentives to pass the test, but Michigan is unique, experts say, in making GED a requirement for parole. Missouri passed a similar law in 2001.
On any given day, between 10,000 and 11,000 inmates are in the classroom; other inmates are on the waiting list. Officials hope that by giving inmates the tools to succeed upon release, they will be less likely to return, saving taxpayers money and making neighborhoods safer. Of the $2 billion corrections budget, more than $32 million is spent on academic and vocational programs. A study of Michigan inmates who were paroled in fall 2002 found that 48 percent who earned their GED in prison re-offended — the same recidivism rate for the overall base sample. Those who earned a GED and got vocational training had a slightly lower recidivism rate at 45 percent.