Ninety-five percent or
more of offenders will be released from prison at some point, and it is incumbent upon Corrections to help protect public safety and ensure offender success by providing them with the tools they need to succeed and become a productive, taxpaying member of society.
Though formal education is often a need for offenders, there are other tools they often need in order to change their pre-existing lifestyle or adopt an outlook that will be more conducive to long-term success. Life Skills courses offered in the prison environment include Thinking for a Change, Communication, Computer Literacy, Relationships, Relapse Prevention, Career Power, Financial Literacy, Anger Management, Parenting, Impact of Crime on Victims, Domestic Violence, Victim Empathy, and Thinking Errors. Upon entrance to the prison system, offenders complete an assessment tool that identifies required courses aimed at helping them overcome specific challenges. Any offender can also request enrollment in a non-required course, provided space is available. Click here for more specific information on life skills.
High School Diplomas
The Utah Department of Corrections works in conjunction with local school districts at the Draper Prison, Gunnison Prison, and county jails in order to provide incarcerated offenders with the experience necessary to earn a high school diploma. While offenders still have the ability to earn G.E.D.s while incarcerated, the department has focused efforts on diplomas due to research showing the added value of a diploma. Canyons School District runs South Park Academy out of the Utah State Prison in Draper, and South Sanpete School District oversees high school education at Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison.
When inmates have completed high school in prison, or if they come into the prison system already having obtained a high school diploma, Corrections works with applied technology colleges to certify inmates in vocational trades. The prison's telephone surcharge fees - paid by inmate families and friends who accept their collect calls - help to support this program. However, offenders often must still take out student loans in order to enroll in vocational trades. Due to the fact the offender does not have a significant source of income while incarcerated, he or she is given adequate time post-release to repay any debt incurred. After an offender is "off paper" (no longer under the department's purview in either the prison or on parole status), that individual has three years to repay the student loans. meaning the State and its taxpayers are not shouldering the costs of post-secondary education. Still, Corrections and the State acknowledge the importance of providing offenders with access to these services. Corrections works with Davis Applied Technology College, Uinta Basin Applied Technology, Snow College and Dixie College. (Adjacent photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News).
In addition to formal programs available at the prisons, inmates can enroll in distance learning educational programs and correspond with institutions via U.S. Mail. This allows offenders working within their own means and efforts to earn other degrees, such as associates, bachelors, masters, etc. While these distant learning initiatives are not funded by State taxpayer-funded resources, there are some non-profit organizations and other entities who sometimes choose to help enable this form of inmate education. (Adjacent photo courtesy of KSL).