GED program helps inmates open doors

Kimberly Jordan • Updated Aug 8, 2013 at 5:12 PM

An education opens a lot of doors. For some, it also gives a renewed sense of purpose.

Ask anyone at the Adult Learning Center who is involved with the GED program and they will say preparing students to take the GED exam is a way for them to make a difference in that person’s life. Three years ago, the ALC implemented the GED program at an unlikely location – the Wilson County Jail.

“We are starting our third year of the program here,” said instructor Pierce Dodson. “It began with just female inmates, but about half way through that first year we picked up the men.”

There are currently 15 inmates enrolled in the program, and Dodson said that number could grow to as many as 25 before the year is over.

Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan said the program started when he was head of the jail.

“It has grown since then. I believe we started with three female inmates,” he said.

He also said the program has helped the deputies in that students are occupied with their studies and are less prone to trouble.

“It keeps their mind moving and occupied, and that cuts down on our problems, such as fights, because they are focused on studying.”

Dodson also said they rarely see discipline problems in the classes. Cpl. James Garton said any inmate who causes a disciplinary problem would be kicked out of the class.

One of the program’s success stories is Travis Jones, who received his GED in the last school year. He received a 540 on the exam.

“It meant a lot of doors opening up for me,” he said. “It meant making my family proud.” It took him between two and three months to complete, and he said he studied for four or five hours a day to prepare himself for the test.

We he is released he plans to apply to a technical school.

“I want to go to welding 101 and get my welding certification,” Jones said.

“We see a lot of success stories from this program,” Bryan said. One of those happened to be an inmate who received the highest GED test score in all of Wilson County last year.

“The leading score in the whole county – a 704 out of 800 – was an inmate at the jail,” said Dodson.

“If we can keep just one person from coming back in these doors, it not only helps them, it helps the whole county,” Bryan said.

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