A Partnership In Education Gives Catoosa County Inmates A New Chance

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Three area programs are partnering to give inmates at the Catoosa County Detention Center an opportunity to excel at education.

Catoosa  Citizens for Literacy, Georgia Northwestern Technical College and the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Department are bringing together a desire to change the lives of Catoosa inmates.

A collaboration will offer programs to prepare inmates for their G.E.D. (General  Educational Development).

“The G.E.D. program is going to offer all types of possibilities as the inmates are re-entering society and going into the workforce,” said Sheriff Gary Sisk. “All the programs we have started in the last year and moving forward this year are focusing on giving them more possibilities to be a more productive member of society.”

About 25-30 percent of their inmates or about 50 do not have a high school diploma, according to Sisk.

He said that Georgia Northwestern is funding an instructor with a grant.

Sherry Riley, Georgia Northwestern Technical College director of instruction, said she is pleased the sheriff recognized a need that could be served through this program.

“I think it is such an opportunity not only for the inmates but for the community as a whole,” she said. “It is a collaborative effort and it all came together at the right time.”

Sheriff Sisk hopes it will open a connection to Georgia Northwestern for inmates.

“The inmates have time on their hands,” he said. “This is another way to better occupy their time. There is the possibility it spurs something in the inmate that may further their education.

Connie Smith, Georgia Northwestern Technical College vice president of adult education, said that having this program is a long-term goal now underway.

“This is something the CCL (Catoosa Citizens for Literacy) has wanted for a long time,” she said.

Shirley Smith, Catoosa Citizens for Literacy executive director, is excited that the organization is working in a new area to eliminate barriers to education.

“CCL donated 10 laptop Dell computers to serve the program,” she said. “This is one more effort to help break the cycle that often keeps families from success due to a lack of the needed skills to excel in life and in the workforce.”

She said that CCL will also pay the $160 testing fee for each inmate when he or she takes the test, just like it does for every Catoosa County resident.

“Thanks to our many donors and partners in Catoosa County, we continue to strive to create opportunities to help residents to eliminate the barriers to success.”

Even if inmates do not complete their studies, Sheriff Sisk sees the program as the first steps to a better life.

“Our detention center is suppose to be a short term holding facility,” he said. “If they don’t finish while they are here, that will be a connection to the Catoosa County Learning Center to continue their efforts there.”

He said that the Sheriff’s Department is working to structure the program to allow certified testers to administer the tests right in the Detention Center. 

For more information about getting a G.E.D., call the Catoosa County Learning Center at 706 965-6155 or visit http://www.catoosacitizensforliteracy.org/.

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