Increased integration of technology at the Hall County Jail is continuing to make processes more streamlined for inmates and officials.
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office announced that on April 9, for the first time inmates took their GED tests via computer at the jail.
According to the offices of the Technical College System of Georgia, the Hall County Jail is the first computer-based GED testing lab set inside a criminal justice facility in Georgia.
Sheriff Gerald Couch had positive words for the program.
“We hope that everyone who successfully completes the program will come out more prepared and better-equipped than when they were booked in at our jail,” Couch said.
“Incarceration, alone, has the potential to profoundly affect individuals who have made bad choices, and end up facing the consequences of their poor judgment. For those who are awakened in this moment of clarity, we hope to continue to provide this opportunity for them to get back on track with their lives.”
Chad Mann, spokesman for the office, cited the combined efforts of the Hall County Jail staff, Hall County Management Information Systems Department, Lanier Technical College Information Technology Department and the Adult Education staff of Lanier Technical College.
“As a result of the program’s success, other Criminal Justice agencies around the State of Georgia are expected to follow Hall County’s lead,” Mann said, in a news release on the program.
Mann cited statistics that show a vast majority of people in the U.S. criminal justice system do not have a high school diploma.
A perpetual goal for the office is helping inmates leave on a path that doesn’t involve breaking the law again, or “recidivism,” as it’s technically known.
“Studies have shown that a correlation exists between the level of education attained by an incarcerated person and his or her recidivism rate. These facts indicate that it is in the best interest of our community that we continue to ensure the inmates of the Hall County Jail have ready access to a basic education,” Mann said.
Before the new technology, GED testing for Hall County Jail inmates had to be at another location, limiting flexibility.
Not only did it add expense to the taxpayers in caring for the inmates, it prohibited female inmates from testing, Mann said — jail policy forbids “mixing” male and female inmates in any given space.
In addition to increased flexibility for date and time, the test can be administered more efficiently as well, with the five parts theoretically being completed in one day, Mann said.
According to Lanier Technical College GED instructor Burch Roberts, the program gained momentum when GED examiner Sally Brown stepped in to give it the “needed push.”
Roberts has been teaching GED students for the past eight years, three at the Hall County Jail, where tests are given twice per month, and classes are run five days a week.
To safeguard against preference being given among the inmates by the instructor, Mann said, no criminal charges are ever asked of, nor discussed by, anyone in the program.
Policy further dictates that the teacher cannot also be the tester; therefore, a separate GED examiner is brought in to satisfy that requirement. Each series of tests given to Hall County Jail inmates are the same standardized tests given across the country.
“Keeping all testing and studying under one roof saves money for our taxpayers, it reduces the risk of an escape and it practically eliminates the issue of contraband being subversively introduced,” Mann added, of on-site testing.
Upon completion of GED testing and release from custody, all inmates will get a letter endorsing them for a $500 grant to pay for books or tuition in the further pursuit of their education.
Certificates will clearly indicate that the GED achievement is derived from the state of Georgia, and do not reflect that testing was administered through the Hall County Jail, Mann said.