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Ga. inmates make history, graduate high school in prison | News

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Ga. inmates make history, graduate high school in prison
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ALTO, Ga. -- Graduating high school guarantees little.

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It does not guarantee a better job, nor a better life -- just a much better chance.

But for 19 women who received their diplomas Thursday, it meant a historic step.

They formed the first group of Georgia inmates to graduate high school while in a state prison -- in this case, Lee Arrendale State Prison in Gainesville.

Most states allow inmates to receive GEDs. Georgia is now one of the few that goes further, using charter school provisions to enable its inmates to graduate high school.

"Research is overwhelming that education in the correctional system reduces recidivism," said Dr. Buster Evans, who one year ago took charge of education at the Department of Corrections.

"Every year we send 20,000 inmates back to communities," Evans said, "so we have an opportunity."


Jasmiyah Whitehead was incarcerated at age 16
; on this day, she was the class valedictorian.

"We are in a place where physical power is completely out of our hands," Whitehead said. "Having the chance to attain something I long ago deemed impossible was the opportunity of a lifetime."

Leaders across the state and nation are tackling the topic of providing pathways for those put away. All today guarantees is that 19 inmates now have diplomas. But, many are betting, that's a big step.

Dr. Evans summed it up when he told the class, "You've done something that no one else in the state of Georgia has been able to do. I hope you feel good about that."

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