AUGUSTA, Ga. – Richmond County prisoners are getting on the right track and putting themselves in a better position than when they were in jail by getting their GED’s.
“For everybody, it answered one question about what they might do when they get out and I think that’s a more rewarding factor than anybody who hasn’t been in that situation,” says Austin Park, a Richmond County inmate.
Inmates, like 23-year-old Austin Park, have similar stories of getting in trouble with the wrong crowds and found themselves in the Richmond County Correctional Institution.
Friday, nine Richmond County prisoners’ narrative changed by receiving their GED.
“I was definitely proud of myself. I was proud of everybody who was in the class. There was a specific type of comradery that we enveloped ourselves in,” says Park.
A graduation ceremony was held at the Gracewood Community Center where 40 other inmates who were also in attendance to receive their certificates for completing On the Job Training. Participating and completing these programs gives inmates an opportunity for wardens to consider parole incentives.
Gary Butler, who has been incarcerated for 18-years tell us getting his GED lead him to volunteer as the teachers’ assistant.
“People have a hard time asking for help. Some people don’t know how to ask for help. I was like that at one time, so seeing those guys get their GED’s and trying to do something when they got out. It was just something I had to do,” says Gary Butler, Richmond County Inmate.
These graduates tell us earning their GED’s came with many challenges and adversities.
“The same thing that got most of us in here. Everybody knows it all until you realize that you don’t know it,” says Butler.
“Did I really not know this or did I not pay attention as much as I thought and I think that was a more frustration for me,” says Park.
But inmates tell us this is only the beginning.
“Journalism is one of my passions and I feel like God has gifted me with that. The ability to write and I’m just hoping that I can get into a school and possibly go into an internship,” says Park.
Wardens tell us this is a big step for these prisoners, but they encourage them to go out and keep learning once they’re released. Many inmates have received certificates in other job related work such as custodial work and food services.