GED program makes triumphant return to county jail

First inmate since 2005 receives GED certificate.

A long-suspended educational program at the Pennington County Jail was revived this past summer and saw its first successful graduate Thursday afternoon.

Correctional Officer Tami Rosser helps an inmate with GED studies. The Pennington County Jail brought the program back for the first time since 2005. Photo Date: Sep. 27, 2018.

Correctional Officer Tami Rosser helps an inmate with GED studies.

The jail has not had a general education diploma, or GED program since 2005 when the Career Learning Center ended its involvement with the program.

Officers at the jail revived this program this past June. Inmate interest has been high. Fifty students may be enrolled in the program at any one time – 25 men and 25 women. It already has a waiting list of 30 inmates.

The program does not feature a traditional classroom structure – there are no lectures. The participating inmates study themselves and come together as a group twice a week. During the meetings, they can discuss the course material, and ask questions to correctional officers, who act as mentors and monitor the inmates’ progress.

The program’s first graduate since 2005 received his GED certificate Thursday afternoon to the applause of his classmates. (For legal reasons, the inmate’s identity could not be revealed at the time this story was published.)

Correctional Officer Tami Rosser, who was instrumental in the program’s revival, said that seeing the inmate receive his GED reminded officers of why they revived it.

It’s nice, especially on days like [Thursday] when we had an inmate get his GED,” Rosser said. “You kind of forget about that while you’re busy doing everything else, but then a situation like this happens and makes it all worth it.”

Despite the waiting list, inmate Drake Janis, who was recently accepted to the program, says it is a way to make good use of his time in jail.

“We got plenty of time here, might as well just make the best of it,” Janis said. “Study to do good things, make changes. We have the time, just use it.”

Costs to the jail are minimal – only photocopying and related expenses.

Testing services are provided by Pearson VUE. Inmates are responsible for testing fees – $6 for practice tests, and $22.50 for subject tests.

Categories: Crime, Local News, South Dakota News