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Better prison education system a good investment
Education is not the final answer for all of our problems, but it is definitely one piece of the puzzle.
Prisons have their share of well-educated inmates, but educational opportunities should be a good investment for convicts who are truly trying to turn their lives around.
Advocacy group Nebraska Appleseed is trying to make that point, releasing a report Wednesday urging the state to increase funding for the corrections department's vocational and life skills training program.
Of the 5,348 inmates in Nebraska's correctional system, nearly 2,100 do not have a high school degree. And, according to the report, the Lincoln prison has a waiting list of 80 inmates for educational classes, with about 30 in correctional centers in Omaha and Lincoln.
While some may balk at "rewarding" inmates with a free education, better programming makes sense for Nebraska. More than 90 percent of Nebraska inmates will return to society, and our state has a low unemployment rate -- we need the workers.
Appleseed recommends better use of federal funding to finance education programs, eliminating waiting lists for Adult Basic Education and GED classes, expanding college offerings for males and making them available for female inmates.
Not that the state hasn't been trying, the report did commend the department of corrections for reviving the vocational program.
And, a corrections department official said a partnership is being launched with York College to provide more courses for female inmates, as well as making computers available for inmates without risking security.
Education has been a traditional emphasis at McCook's Work Ethic Camp, and McCook Community College has initiated efforts like the Center for Applied Science and Technology -- CAST -- welding training, with potential for more.
Education isn't the final answer for Nebraska's overcrowded prison system, but it is certainly a better investment that sending the same people to prison over and over again.