One dozen inmates earn their G.E.D.’s thanks to an Iowa prison’s education program

ANAMOSA, Iowa-- An Iowa prison is doing everything it can to make sure inmates never return once they're released.

More than a dozen prisoners at Anamosa State Penitentiary are making headlines for a good reason: they're making progress in turning their lives around by completing their high school education or finishing an apprenticeship.

The prison, 80 miles northeast of the Quad Cities, teams up with Kirkwood Community College to help inmates reach their education goals. Teachers come to the prison to hold classes or teach work skills.

Thousands of hours and many months later, the inmates walked across a makeshift graduation stage Wednesday night, ushering in a new chapter of their lives.

"It's the best thing they could do for someone in my situation," Jalen Gary, an inmate who just graduated with his G.E.D. said. "They`re giving me the opportunity to accomplish something in life."

To earn their G.E.D.'s, the inmates had to pass a series of tests, which are equivalent to a high school diploma.

Inmates in the apprenticeship program had to learn 4,000-6,000 hours of on-the-job work skills.

"By providing them education opportunities, helping them become more employable, that assists them so they can find a job, and not turn back to something they would do criminally to come back in the system," the program's director Marcel Kielkucki explains.

Iowa's recidivism rate is around 31%. That's much lower than the national average of 68%. The Anamosa State Penitentiary credits their program with helping keep that rate low.

The Penitentiary holds graduation ceremonies for its inmates twice a year.