Harvey County Detention Center in Kansas is finding that offering inmates a high school diploma program is a significant stepping stone in helping inmates realize a brighter future.

"When your whole life has been built around getting your gratification in short-term things, like addictions, it's important to change the pattern of the way you think," said Jason Reynolds, Director of the Harvey County Sheriff's Office Support Services. "We want them to have a new mindset when they get out of jail. We want the people in the program to improve their lives when they get out."

The Harvey County Detention Center is using Penn Foster's High School Diploma program to instill that new mindset in inmates, and the results are encouraging. The first student graduated the high school diploma program earlier this year, taking about six months. And Reynolds believes, based on the comprehensiveness and rigor of the program, all student-inmates would be able to earn their high school diploma in a year or less.

For inmates, a high school diploma opens up new employment and life opportunities and teaches them the skills and discipline necessary to transform their lives after incarceration, as they re-enter society.

According to Reynolds, the biggest indicator of whether a former inmate will commit a new crime following release is their conduct in the 24-36 months after leaving the center. If they do not commit another crime during this time, they are far more likely to assimilate back into society and live a normal, crime-free lifestyle.

Given the importance of these 24-36 months, many detention center administrators, such as Reynolds, believe offering education and transition programs to inmates is crucial in helping them prepare for life outside the walls of the detention center. Penn Foster's High School Diploma program provides structure and self-discipline that inmates can apply to their life during and after incarceration. The program also equips participants with the skills necessary to find a good job.

Individuals without a high school diploma are not eligible for 90 percent of jobs in the United States1, making acquiring a high school diploma crucial to improving employment prospects for inmates. Earning a diploma also communicates to prospective employers the candidate's ability to dedicate him or herself to improving themselves and achieving goals, and starts them on a path to higher education and even better employment prospects. A job can provide the much needed purpose, routine and structure to keep former inmates on track in life, which is extremely important in the 2-3 years immediately following their release.

Reynolds looked into a GED program while exploring options for an education program, but ultimately decided on Penn Foster High School due to its online, self-paced delivery, and its flexibility to accommodate the unique learning needs of the center's students.

With the help of Penn Foster, Harvey County Detention Center is able to provide inmates with not only a high school diploma, but the structure and skills needed for a brighter future.

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Resources: Photo Credit (1) Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce " America's Divided Recovery