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Prisoners become pupils

Inmates receive degrees, diplomas
By: Roger Phelps, The Telegraph
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Rather than hitting the gym, some inmates are hitting the books. Earlier this month, 149 inmates were granted certificates for course work completed at the Greystone Adult School run by Folsom State Prison. Nine took associate of arts college degrees, said Lt. Dave Zaniroli of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Commencement services in front of the prison’s east gate in the Represa district also honored 75 inmates who took a state General Education Development certificate, equivalent to a high-school diploma. One received a high school diploma. Some 64 inmates who completed a vocational course received an Industry Certification. The valuable Industry Certification shows employers that a job applicant has passed the necessary requirements for employment in one of several trades that include welding, electronics, mill and cabinet, landscaping, janitorial and office services, according to Seth Unger, CDCR spokesman. The adult school, founded in 1944, employs 57 instructors. It was state-recognized as its own public-school district in 1984. Even as the department is caught in a serious crowding problem that a court ruled meant inhumane medical treatment, it has moved in recent years to an emphasis on social rehabilitation of convicts. As crowding eases, partly through a transfer out-of-state of some inmates ordered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, rehabilitative programs can grow. Successfully rehabilitated prisoners are less likely to re-offend and return to prison. A high recidivism rate contributed to the serious crowding in California prison. “Inmates who leave prison prepared with the right education and skills can make positive contributions to the community,” said Marisela Montes, CDCR chief deputy secretary for adult programs. “Giving inmates the tools they need to succeed upon release will reduce recidivism, and improve public safety. Implementing the governor’s reforms to reduce overcrowding will create much needed space to expand valuable rehabilitation programs like these that will impact inmates’ lives. Strategies to reduce recidivism provide enormous public safety benefits and are key components of the governor’s vision for long-term reform.”