Wardens in the Florida Department of Corrections discuss benefits of Internet-based high school diploma program, which proves successful as a GED alternative with inmates in Florida correctional facilities.

The Florida Department of Corrections (FLDOC) has expanded its use of online career high school for inmate education within the Florida correctional system. With the start of 2014, the FLDOC Online Campus program is being offered to a total of seven institutions throughout the state. Wardens are hopeful that the dual career training plus high school diploma program will keep offenders from returning to prison once released.

“We are preparing the students for a successful transition into the community with a high school diploma and a career certificate,” said Darlene Lumpkin, Assistant Warden at Lowell Annex, where 27 women have graduated from the program thus far. “That combination improves their chances of finding a job and becoming productive members of society, thus lowering the recidivism rate.”

The program, which is the only online high school program in a correctional facility in the United States, was launched by the FLDOC in 2012 in partnership with Smart Horizons Career Online Education, the world’s first SACS accredited online school district. It offers an accredited high school diploma through highly secure computer workstations in the prisons. Inmates complete a credentialed career certificate as part of the program, so that they graduate with vocational skills that can be applied in a job post-release. The ultimate goal is to keep offenders from returning to prison.

“The program reflects the Department of Corrections’ mission to enhance the lives of others by assisting inmates in obtaining vital skills for their successful reentry into society,” said Connice L. West, Jr., Assistant Warden at Madison Correctional Institution. “Studies show that inmates who complete educational programs while they are in prison have a better chance of finding a job and staying out of the system. These efforts help keep inmates from reoffending and ensure a safer Florida.”

The FLDOC Online Campus’s self-paced, proficiency-based curriculum boasts impressive data thus far, including 100 graduates, 324 students served (including active students who have not yet graduated), 4,135 high school total credits earned, and 1 student admitted to college. “This curriculum, in conjunction with GED courses, has increased inmate graduations at an incredible rate,” said Assistant Warden West.

In addition, the data has shown the program to be very effective for inmates with education levels between 5th and 9th grade.

“The program has been very beneficial to Lowell Annex because it provides an alternative to the traditional GED program that most of the institutions provide,” said Assistant Warden Lumpkin. “Students are able to work at their own pace and see results instantly when they submit their assignments, which provides them with the motivation to continue with their work and know where they need to improve. The program is also innovative because it incorporates technology into the correctional environment and the classroom in a safe and controlled manner.”

The FLDOC will continue to track the progress of the program’s graduates to see whether it meets their expectations for reducing recidivism.