Tallahassee, Florida --
They're doing math, while doing time.
Florida Department of Corrections officials say there's a growing number of prison inmates earning their G.E.D.
Shane Mills dropped out of school in the seventh grade.
An aggravated battery charge with intent to harm landed him in Wakulla Correctional Institution, but two class sessions a day will soon land him a G.E.D.
Mills said, "I got three girls. It's going to be great to be able to keep them interested and be able to act like I know what I'm doing and explain it to them. I think that'll go a long way."
The Florida Department of Corrections Secretary says the
number of state inmates earning G.E.D. certificates has nearly doubled in three years.
At W.C.I., 115 inmates graduated last fiscal year; and 25 of the 34 who took the full exam so far this year have passed.
"If you want to get back what you've lost in life; I feel blessed to have the opportunity to do it." Said, Mills.
W.C.I.'s Academic Teacher Jan Hofmann said, "I really enjoy what I do here. Hopefully they can get out of the program and get out of prison and do something with their high school diploma."
The D.O.C. secretary says inmates who have a G.E.D. when they're released are 8 percent less likely to return to prison than those without their degree.
Kenneth Taylor, who's gone from a second to eighth grade level, is counting on that success.
Taylor said, "After I receive my diploma, I know it's going to open many doors for me, to be able to take care of my family, my wife, my kids a lot better than I would have."
These students say when released, they'll stay behind their books, and not behind bars.
The D.O.C. secretary says the recidivism rate is 14 percent less for inmates with a vocational certificate.
Fifty-nine major institutions in Florida offer the G.E.D. program.
Miami, Florida --
Florida prison inmates are close to setting a record for the number of high school equivalency certificates earned in a year.
The Department of Corrections says more than 2,500 prisoners
have received their GED certificates so far this year, compared to
1,313 just four years ago. Last year, 2,603 inmates got their GED.
This happened even though the prison department's education
budget has been almost cut in half during the last eight years.
To supplement the reduced teaching staff, prisons are now using
inmates to teach other inmates.
To teach, the inmates need a GED or higher, pass an assessment
test and take a six-week course.
Prison officials say released inmates who have their GED are 8
percent less likely to return to prison.