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13 Misississippi Inmates Earn GED or Vocational Certificate

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 07 Sep 2012 05:10pm | comments
Donald Pendergrast addresses the graduate inmates.

Mississippi routinely ranks near the top for the number of people in prison per capita and state prison officials say education could be a key way to reduce the prison population. MPB's Jeffrey's Hess reports.

There are about 31-thousand Mississippians currently in prison or jail around the state.

13 prison of those inmates, 12 women and one man, recently received a high school GED or a vocational certificate at a ceremony at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl.

The inmates, many smiling broadly and waving to their families, are now on a path to a normal life after prison says the facility's director of education Donald Pendergrast.

“If they are in some type of skill or in their adult basic education obtaining their general education degree, than they are able to go out and contribute in the workforce out in the world once they have been released from prison,” Pendergrast said.

Pendergrast says the education program contributes to the prison's low recidivism rate, which is about 10-percent under the state average.

“I will feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders when my daughter comes home,”

That's Edna Rutland, whose daughter graduated with a cosmetology certificate.

Rutland says her  daughter's prison time has given her an educational opportunity she might not have had outside of incarceration.

“There is certainly a bright side. God has turned it around for her and she has been able to do this. So we feel like we have been greatly blessed,” Rutland said

Rutland thinks the education will help her daughter support her three children when she leaves prison in April.

“She will be finding a job. She will be getting at a salon because that is wants to do,” Rutland said, laughing.

Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, which is all female, houses nearly 1-thousand inmates....a third of whom are in some educational program.

These programs are often duplicated in the prisons that hold Mississippi's males, the majority of whom are African-American.

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Donald Pendergrast addresses the graduate inmates.


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