GALVESTON — Some inmates at the Galveston County Jail are getting a second chance at an education.
Through a partnership with College of the Mainland in Texas City, the jail now offers an adult education program to help prepare inmates to pass a General Educational Development, or GED, test.
The program, which is available to inmates who pass certain background checks and meet other requirements, is now in its third session of six-week courses.
Corrections Maj. Stacy Killgore with the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office said the program helps cut back on recidivism, and gives inmates an alternative to a life of crime.
“A lot of the reason some of these guys got involved in criminal activities is because of a lack of education,” he said.
Chief Deputy of Corrections Mary Johnson said education was key to rehabilitation, and helps inmates re-enter the world with practical skills and knowledge.
“It gives them hope and a good chance of making something better of their lives,” she said.
By helping inmates find gainful employment through practical skills learned and education received in jail, the program benefits society at large, Johnson said.
A diverse group of inmates, ranging in age and backgrounds, learn language arts, science and other subjects necessary to pass the GED test, Johnson said.
Several inmates have already continued pursuing their studies outside of jail, she said.
Classes are held in a jail pod, complete with textbooks and a whiteboard. Last week, inmates conducted hands-on science experiments on color-changing carnations, testing how various dyes and other substances affect the flowers.
College of the Mainland professor Robin Lynn Wright volunteers to teach the men, who she said are transitioning to new phases of their lives.
Wright puts algebra equations on a whiteboard as the classroom chimes in with answers to the various math problems.
She said the program benefits the men.
“Not only will they be prepared to pass the GED, they’re gaining a confidence and a discipline to go out and achieve,” she said.
Wright said three students who were in the adult education program at the jail have gone on to take classes at College of the Mainland.
“This is a person who can leave here and go walk on a college campus with their head held high,” she said.
Several students in the class said the program gave them a newfound confidence, and inspired them to pursue new careers outside of jail.
“We’ve come a long way,” one inmate said. “This has unlocked doors.”
Sheriff Henry Trochesset said the adult education program comes at no cost to taxpayers and is funded primarily through grants to College of the Mainland.
It’s one of the newer initiatives at the jail, along with an inmate-run garden suggested by Trochesset last year.
After making the soil fertile enough to host a garden, it took root in March and has already yielded results.
Vegetables and fruit grown in the garden go to charities in the county, Trochesset said.
The skills program at the jail also has had success. Inmates can learn or show their skills in woodworking, welding, equipment maintenance, grounds-keeping, painting and more.
Women inmates can work on sewing, floral design, wreath-making, clothing repairs and other practical skills.
Roughly 30 inmates, who pass a background and classification check to enter the program, maintain the grounds at the county courthouse and justice center. The crews help with cleanups at locations throughout the county, wash county vehicles and perform maintenance work on equipment.
The program helps inmates learn new skills and has the added benefit of saving the county thousands of dollars, Trochesset said.
The adult education program is currently only open to male inmates, but corrections officials hope to expand it to women soon.
Sgt. David Grace, a supervisor in the program, said he has seen inmates turn skills they learned in the program into careers in the outside world.
“We’ve had success stories come out of here,” Grace said. “Guys who have really gone from zero to hero.”