New program gives Walker County inmates a second chance at education

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WALKER COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — For the first time, the Walker County Sheriff’s Office is offering an education program for their inmates.

When someone goes to jail, it’s to pay their dues for the crime they committed, but instead of just locking the key and throwing it away, the Walker County Sheriff’s Office is offering a hand to those who want to better themselves through the power of education.

“At first I was skeptical about doing it but then I came to terms hey this is for me, no one can do this but me,” said Clarence Hunter, an inmate at the Walker County Jail.

Hunter is one of eight Walker County inmates getting their GED diplomas through a sheriff’s department program with Bevill State Community College.

Darius Lake is looking to trade in his jailhouse orange for a diploma.

“I’ve been wanting to go to college. I’ve been wanting a diploma but I didn’t know how,” he said.

“One thing we don’t want to do is just throw people in jail strictly for punitive reasons and leave them there. We believe if they can have something positive to do with their time and reform or rehabilitate themselves, then we want to provide that to prevent the likelihood of them coming back to jail,” said T.J. Armstrong with the Walker County Sheriff’s Office.

Several times a week, someone from Bevill State comes to the Walker County Jail to help inmates finish their high school education.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, inmates in programs like this are 43% less likely to return to prison.

Some inmates said they thought this day would never come.

“My mom and dad needed help and back in 70s, times were hard. I quit school at an early age to help pay bills,” Hunter said.

“I never thought a math book would come back around, but when they came around saying something about the program, it just made me feel good,” inmate Michael Roberts said.

They’re also feeling good about their futures.

“Education is the one thing no one can take away from you and when these guys get to a point where they have an education, there is a sense of pride,” Armstrong said.

“It made me feel kind of good because I need that in my life,”Lake said.

“I came to terms with, hey this is for me. Nobody can do this but me,” Hunter said.

Officials at the Sheriff’s Office said if the inmates get out of jail before finishing the program, they can pick up right where they left off with Bevill State’s GED program. Once they finish and get their diploma, they are eligible for a free college course at any Alabama community college.

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