31 inmates receive diplomas from Georgia charter high school

Burruss Correctional Training Center graduation / Matt Thielke (WGXA)

FORSYTH, Ga. -- On Thursday, 31 inmates at Burruss Correctional Training Center, a medium security prison in Forsyth, received their high school diplomas.

Many prisons across the country offer programs for inmates to obtain a GED, but only two prisons in the state of Georgia offer programs for inmates to actually get a high school diploma. Burruss is one of them.

The program allows inmates who are 22 years old or under to apply to enroll at Foothills Education Charter High School. If they are accepted, the inmates take online courses at facilities at the prison to complete the credits that remain on their high school education records with the help from instructors from the high school.

Dr. Sherrie Gibney-Sherman, the superintendent of Foothills, said that the program has seen much success since its inception at Burress last year. She said that it gives the students self confidence and the ability to have a better chance to get a job when they are released from prison.

She said that the most important thing that the program hopes to instill in its students is a sense that they aren't defined by what they did to get them into prison, but they are defined by what they do to help them when they are released.

Lori Benoit, charter school programs manager at Foothills, said that there is a waiting list of about 1,400 inmates statewide who are seeking to enter the program. Because of its popularity, she said that they hope to expand the program to more Georgia prisons in the future.

"They will be much more successful upon release if they have education," Benoit said. "It's been, studies show it helps reduce recidivism the more education we can give them."

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