Reading between the bars

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Reading between the bars

At La Plata County Jail, books can be lifelines for inmates
La Plata County Jail’s GED program is the key to reducing recidivism

In addition to a library, the La Plata County Jail also offers a General Educational Development program. Jail Lt. Holly Ezzell said about 10 or 11 people are enrolled at once. The teacher has eight hour-long sessions with inmates every week.
Inmates interested in enrolling get instruction from a teacher with Pine River Community Center.
“One of the things that I think is important for the public to know is that Pine River was actually able to raise funds to sponsor the GED program for the jail. But when that funding is gone, we don’t know where additional funding will come from for the program,” Ezzell said.
La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith said the program is critical to help lessen crime.
“From my standpoint, everything we do in terms of services in the jail contributes to reduced recidivism on the outside – and that’s a good thing,” he said.
A 2014 U.S. National Research Council report found that literacy rates among prisoners substantially are lower than the general population.
“Over the past 40 years, the percentage of prisoners having completed high school at the time of their incarceration fluctuated between about one-quarter and more than one-third for state prison inmates, with higher rates for those housed in federal facilities,” the report states.
Jail Capt. Mike Slade said he is invested in the program, which has made a sustained impact on the lives of inmates despite the fact that the inmate population is transient.
“We’re absolutely proud to offer it. It’s a great program that gives people the opportunity to get an education, when, often, they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. And we’ve had a lot of success over the years getting people fully through their GEDs while in jail, thanks to phenomenal instructors,” he said.

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