The Florida Department of Corrections has formally announced its intent to award a contract to Smart Horizons Career Online Education (SHCOE) for the provision of online career training and high school education services to Florida inmates. According to Dr. Howard Liebman, CEO and Superintendent of SHCOE, the initial pilot program is scheduled to begin March 1 at the Madison Correctional Institution and either the Lowell Correctional Institution or the Hillsborough Correctional Institution.

Based in Pensacola, Florida, SHCOE is the world’s first AdvancED/SACS accredited online school district. SHCOE offers an instructional program that enables students returning to the education process to earn an 18–credit high school diploma while also completing coursework for a credentialed career certificate. SHCOE forms strategic alliances with school districts, post–secondary institutions, community organizations and non–profit foundations in an ongoing effort to reach an ever–widening circle of adult learners.

“We are excited that the Department of Corrections will use SHCOE’s online academic program to provide inmates with an innovative career–based online high school education,” Dr. Liebman said. “We have specifically developed a career online education and training model for the corrections industry that is flexible, cost–effective and readily adaptable to prison populations.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics, approximately 75 percent of America’s state prison inmates are high school dropouts. “Equally telling is the fact that only 20 percent of adults who have been in prison education programs are re–incarcerated as compared to a 49 percent rate of re–incarceration for adults who did not participate in those programs,” said Dr. Liebman. “SHCOE offers the State of Florida an ideal means of lowering recidivism rates, reducing costs, and preparing prison inmates for careers in various occupational areas.”

According to Florida Department of Corrections data, the state’s current prison population exceeds 100,000 individuals.