Maria Young Published

Inmates Earn Credentials That May Help After Release

hands holding graduation caps in the air
Dozens of inmates at the Lakin Correctional Center earned degrees and certifications last week.
Prostock-studio/Adobe Stock

Several dozen inmates at the Lakin Correctional Center in Mason County, West Virginia earned new diplomas and certifications last week that may someday make it easier for them to join the workforce. 

Even behind the barbed wire and steel gates, there was a bit of pomp and circumstance at West Virginia’s only all-female prison. 

Before a crowd of family members, friends and corrections officials, 39 women received diplomas in a variety of programs – everything from high school equivalencies and technical training to culinary, cosmetology and dog grooming certifications.

It makes a difference in self-esteem for many of the students, said Lori Wedge, Lakin’s principal for West Virginia Schools of Diversion and Transition – particularly for those who received their high school equivalencies.

They found that very rewarding, because they have often felt like a failure because they dropped out. And then, you know, you can’t have a really decent job if you don’t have your high school diploma, so they want that or the equivalency,” Wedge said.

Having a felony conviction makes it harder, Wedge admitted, to land a job after their time is up. That in turn affects recidivism rates.

Most of the graduates will be released within five years, she said.

Prison officials hope this achievement helps them to not return.