COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Inmates at the Muscogee County Prison are trading their jumpsuits for a cap and gown.
After a six-year lapse, a ceremony is being held to honor inmates completing General Educational Development (GED) courses.
Most of the men have been incarcerated for years, but Tuesday morning, some say they were given a second chance.
"I did it to show my kids that it is important, and they should value it to see how important it is to have your degree," said Ronald Skinner, a current Muscogee County inmate.
Skinner, 51, says he never made it past the 9th grade, dropping out of school to work and later ending up in prison on a drug trafficking charge. He says completing weeks worth of coursework is the first step towards bettering himself while also inspiring other inmates.
"After a couple refreshers, it came back to me. It had been 20 years since I had done any of this.
A study done by the Department of Corrections shows inmates who participate in work programs and educational opportunities are 50 percent less likely to return to prison.
The 2018 goal by GDOC is to have 3,000 inmates graduate with their GED. So far, they are 60 inmates away from reaching the goal.
"An education and a job skill are two things they are going to need to cut down on the recidivism rate. People think inmates break rocks all day, then go to bed. It's not like that at all. We want to ensure we try to give them tools to succeed upon their release," said Muscogee County Prison Warden H. Dwight Hamrick.
The Muscogee County Prison reportedly has the highest graduating class within the state. Warden Hamrick says he hopes this he hopes this graduation is a start of something new for the inmates.
"They could have been doing other things during their spare time when they are not working, but instead they chose to come to class and they achieved that. We are proud of them for that," said Hamrick.
For the 22 inmates graduating, they say the paper certificate holds a much deeper meaning.
"I wasn't doing nothing with my time except sitting down. Might as well take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself to me. It feels good to accomplish something while you're in a predicament like this," said inmate Edward Preston.
Skinner is encouraging other inmates to take advantage of the opportunity.
"It's never too late. You can always start over and create better things for yourself."
The GED program is done in partnership with Columbus Technical College.