Editorial: A good lesson at the jail

Go to jail. Collect GED diploma. It doesn’t happen a lot at the Deschutes County jail.

But Sheriff Larry Blanton has made a change to make it more possible for more people to earn their GED diploma.

The jail has offered GED classes for more than 20 years. Now, inmates who get started on their GED diploma in jail and want to finish it after they are released can continue to get instruction. The sheriff will pay for the tutoring, which costs about $25 per hour, and the $150 fee for the test. The GED test has five sections and covers basic educational requirements.

Blanton admitted he learned a lesson of his own one day when he was trying to help a class with fractions. He should stick to law enforcement. Inmates don’t automatically qualify to participate. It’s a privilege. They are screened. They have to show good conduct and demonstrate initiative within the program.

Last year, 78 inmates took GED classes. Ten of them received their GED diploma. For perspective, there were about 233 people in jail on average in 2013.

Sure, 10 is not a lot. And maybe not more than a handful more will want to finish up after they leave jail. It’s still a good change.

The jail is mostly there to house inmates to keep the community safe. And that is mostly what it does. That’s not all it does.

It struggles to deal with people brought to the jail who suffer from some sort of mental illness. Many inmates have drug and alcohol addictions.

It helps to keep the community safe when people get drug and alcohol treatment in jail. It helps when inmates can get food handler training. It also helps to keep the community safe when inmates can earn their GED diploma and then maybe have a better chance of leading a more productive life.