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County jail to begin new GED class

After several years without one, the Pearl River County Jail will begin a new GED program for its inmates next week.

The previous GED program ran for three years and more than 10 inmates received their GED through the program before it ended more than a year ago, said Julie Flowers, the Pearl River County Jail’s compliance officer. Other inmates began their GED in the county jail and were able to continue working on it in state prisons or after being released from the jail, Flowers said.

The previous GED program was run by the Pearl River Community College, Flowers said. The county paid for testing, but the college provided an instructor, curriculum and course materials. Unfortunately, funding for the GED program was cut and the college was no longer able to run it, which left the jail without a GED program.

The college will help the jail with the new program by sending GED instructors to administer a pre-test that all inmates without their GED can complete. PRCC is also providing curriculum and some materials for the new GED course.

The jail will pay for the new teacher with proceeds from its canteen fund, so the jail will not spend taxpayer dollars on the program. The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors approved contracting the GED teacher during Monday’s meeting. The instructor will be paid approximately $21 per hour for a 15-hour work week, which is $315 per week.

The canteen fund is generated from the purchase of items such as personal hygiene items, t-shirts, underwear, and food items like noodles, chips or pastries by the inmates. The fund generates $5,000 to $6,000 per month, Flowers said. At the beginning of October, there was $32,000 in the fund, said County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin.

By law, the jail is required to spend the canteen fund only on items for the inmates in the jail. The jail uses the fund to pay for things for the inmates that are considered extracurricular, like TVs, hair cutting supplies, cable and basketballs, Flowers said. The fund is also used to replace worn out items the inmates use like uniforms and bed mats. The jail does not use the fund on necessities like food.

Currently, the canteen fund pays for one position: the person who handles all of the canteen money and orders. Now, the fund will also pay for the GED instructor.

Next week, inmates without a GED will begin testing to determine what educational needs they have. Approximately 10 to 15 inmates will need to complete testing. The majority of those inmates will be from the state prison, Flowers said.

The state prison sends inmates to Pearl River County Jail to complete its long term drug and alcohol program.

If individual inmates score high enough to earn their GED, they will be able to move forward and take the test they need to acquire their GED without taking the class, Flowers said. The pre-test will also determine if inmates need extra help in specific subject areas. The class itself will be taught twice a week.

Usually circuit court judges require inmates without a GED to acquire one, Flowers said. Completing the program can also change inmate attitudes about themselves and their place in the world, Flowers said.

“We’re just happy to have it back, because we are trying to give them something to work toward so that some of the behavior will change,” Flowers said.