On Thursday, 40 inmates at the Morehouse Parish Detention Center in Collinston were celebrated with a graduation for successful completion of three different programs at the center.
Some graduated the reentry program, some completed adult basic education classes and others received their GED. A portion of students finished two of the three programs while two in attendance at the ceremony successfully completed all three.
"When I first got here, I didn't want to just sit and do nothing," Leroy Terry Jr., who completed all three classes at the MPDC, said. "By the grace of God, I got through and passed. I've been out of school for 42 years, and it took being here for me to get my education."
Terry also said he hopes his mother and son will be proud of his accomplishments.
According to Jamie Jones, HISET instructor, the adult basic education certification process can serve as a refresher course for inmates who have graduated high school or help those who have not completed their education progress to the 10th grade level. Students who successfully complete the program receive 90 days of good time. Jones also clarified that the HISET is a state-based test that took the place of the GED.
During the ceremony, the inmates heard words of wisdom and encouragement from a variety of speakers including Warden Isaac Brown, Dr. George Noflin, Pearl Wise, supervisor of parole and probation and Deputy Samuel M. Jackson, Chaplain.
During his comments, Jackson emphasized the power of a changed mind, personal discipline and the value of working hard through any circumstance.
"My classroom is a hallway, but we get things done," Jackson said. "We use what we have to use to accomplish what we need to accomplish."
When Dr. Noflin spoke he used the Bible to convey a message to the graduating class. "The message I have for you today is coming from the Bible," Noflin said. "...With all the degrees that I have, the best advice I can give is not from my knowledge, but from what the Bible says."
Using Bible verses to illustrate each piece of advice, Noflin encouraged the men to remember where they came from, that God gave them everything they have and to remember the power and the promise of God.
Pearl Wise, the area supervisor for parole and probation, also came prepared with advice for the men. Her message to inmates acknowledged the value of the education they have received and how they can continue to educate themselves going forward with news reports, papers and magazine articles. Wise also encouraged the men to never come back to MPDC.
"Be one of the 100 percent; We never came back to jail," Wise said. "[People will say] when that class of 2014 graduated under Mr. Jackson, they never came back."
Wise also shared new research and statistics about the recidivism rate for inmates who successfully complete probation and parole. For those who successfully complete parole, the recidivism rate is less than 20 percent. For those who successfully complete probation, the rate drops to less than 10 percent.
Warden Brown finished the comments and discussed the efforts the men have made, which, for some, include working in the work release program until late at night while still pursuing the educational opportunities offered.
"If only one learns something to benefit them in the world," Brown said, "We've made a great change."