FLDOC Online Campus is the nation’s first Internet-based high school program in the corrections field. The use of private-public partnerships to support successful offender re-entry into society via online education is an example that correctional systems across the nation should pay attention to.
For the first time, Florida inmates are earning high school diplomas online while in prison. The unprecedented program delivering Internet-based secondary education to Florida correctional facilities is called the FLDOC Online Campus—a career-focused high school born of a partnership between the Florida Department of Corrections (FLDOC) and Smart Horizons Career Online Education, the country’s first SACS accredited online school district.
“Our work with Smart Horizon Career Online Education on this effort is a tangible expression of our commitment to the FLDOC’s vision of changing lives to ensure a safer Florida,” said Dr. John L. Lewis, Chief of Education for the FLDOC’s Office of Re-Entry. “Earning a high school diploma is a very important event in people’s lives and this is especially so for inmates who have traditionally had problems with schooling.”
The FLDOC’s Office of Re-Entry is tasked with preparing inmates for a successful integration back into the community once they are released from prison. Its main objectives are to enhance public safety, reduce recidivism, and foster partnerships that support its mission. Dr. Lewis says the Smart Horizons Career Online Education partnership supports all of these goals. “The ability for inmates to now complete their high school diplomas while incarcerated provides a concrete example of FLDOC capitalizing on partnerships to help inmates successfully re-enter society,” he said.
Dr. Lewis sees the strength of the partnership as being instrumental in the program’s success thus far. “FLDOC and SHCOE have demonstrated that technologically-innovative public-private partnerships in secure environments can be successful and beneficial to increasing inmates’ re-entry skill levels,” he said.
The partnership could become a model in the industry, especially as program outcomes continue to show positive trends. The FLDOC’s data reporting and tracking functionality has also been enhanced due to Smart Horizons Career Online Education’s learning management system, which offers near real-time access to data. This upgrade is reflected in the Department’s most recent agency statistics, which for the first time included high school enrollment and graduation numbers in addition to GEDs and vocational certificates. The FLDOC may be paving the way for correctional institutions throughout the country, which are seeking ways to reduce recidivism and lower prison population numbers.