Caresse Jackman

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Video: Inmates Turning Their Life Around Through Jail GED Program

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FULTON, Miss. (WCBI)- Beth Graham is not afraid to admit her mistakes. She dropped out of school in the 9th grade and is serving time at the Itawamba County jail. But she’s not letting that stop her from turning her life around.

“I came here on a DUI so basically I battled with drugs my whole life. I always wanted to go back to school, whenever I was younger, I left because I had my baby and this is an opportunity to further my education and make my parents proud,” said Graham.

Beth is studying for the GED exam. So is Preston Sheffield.

“I am a recovering addict and when I came in here, it was just for minor stuff. But, I knew this was probably the best thing for me. Just because you’re in stripes doesn’t make you a bad person. You can always change. And people in here do have big hearts,” said Sheffield.

Jail Administrator Vicky Russell and Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson started the GED Program last year. It gives inmates an opportunity to use their time for something positive.

“We got with Itawamba County Learning Center, Ms. Elizabeth and Pat Thorn over there and talked to them and they decided we will give it a try so it’s been a real success,” said Russell.

“It’s allowing us to keep people from being repeat offenders for whatever reason they came in because it’s giving them an extra opportunity. It’s part of our mission to protect and serve and this is part of that serving that we’re doing here,” said Dickinson.

Pat Thorn tutors her students every week.

“It’s fun to watch them transform. From when they come in, they’re usually nervous and scared, thinking they can’t do anything. By the time they leave, they are ready!!! They are ready to face the world and to take that test! And it’s exciting to see,” said Thorn.

Exciting and life changing. Both Beth and Preston want to use their story to educate and help others.

“I’m better than I think I am. I don’t want to go out and do the stupid things I was doing. And I’d like to come help people here whenever I leave and be able to tell them my testimony and how I changed my life,” said Graham.

“I want to go into criminal justice since I know so much about it! I know a lot of the laws and what you can and cannot do so that’s pretty much what I want to go into,” said Sheffield.

Students who pass the GED exam receive a scholarship to Itawamba Community College.

If you would like to help with funding for the courses you can contact Director Elizabeth Triplet at (662) 871-3273.