The number of Florida state inmates earning GED certificates has nearly doubled in three years, increasing from 1,313 GEDs awarded in FY 2006-07 to 2,603 awarded in fiscal year 2009-10. That increase only reflects the number of inmates who passed all five parts of the test: reading, language and writing (including an essay), math, social studies and science. Many more inmates passed sections of it and will be retaking those sections to complete their GEDs in the coming year.
"Inmates who have a GED when they're released from prison recidivate at a rate 7.9% less than inmates overall, and their recidivism rate is 14% less for those with a vocational certificate," said Department of Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil. "An inmate with an education has a better chance of getting a job, and not committing another crime and coming back to prison. It's not just an education issue; it's a public safety issue."
Youthful offender institutions continue to lead in GED awards in FY 2009-10: Sumter Correctional Institution (CI) with 159, Lancaster CI with 138, Lowell CI with 96, Brevard CI with 106, and Indian River CI with 84. Lancaster, Brevard and Indian River CI's are youthful offender institutions; Lowell and Sumter CIs are adult facilities with separate youthful offender units; Lowell houses female inmates and Sumter houses males. Historically, youthful offender facilities have awarded the highest number of GEDs, which may be a consequence of the larger teaching staffs (and enrollments) that significant supplemental federal funding allows.
Of particular note also are the achievements of the education departments at Gulf and Mayo CI's. In FY2009-10, the Gulf CI education program awarded 118 GEDs and the Mayo CI program awarded 88. What makes both such remarkable accomplishments is that these two programs are staffed by one academic teacher each, along with inmate teaching assistants.
The increase in GEDs earned can be attributed to a combination of factors, including:
implementing quarterly testing cycles beginning in FY 2007-08, which allowed our education programs to more quickly identify students' educational deficiencies and to provide remedial instruction;
use of trained inmate teaching assistants to increase enrollment capacity and to expand small-group and one-on-one instruction;
establishing computer-based reading/testing laboratories in 18 education programs through a $500,000 special legislative appropriation in FY2006-07; and,
implementing creative and innovative ideas such as opening and supporting volunteer literacy programs at work camps.