Criminal Justice

With prison orange under caps and gowns, adult inmates graduate from jailhouse charter school

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Frederick Releford’s mom leaned on a cane Tuesday as she watched her 49-year-old son, wearing a cap and gown over his orange prison garb, walk across a stage along with others in his 20-member class at the San Francisco County Jail in San Bruno, Calif., to accept his high school diploma. A separate ceremony was held for another 25 who are no longer in the jail’s custody.

Billed as the first program of its kind to be operated in a jail, the Five Keys Charter School, which is run by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office, required special state permission to enroll adults as high school students, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

In the 10 years it has existed, the high school has issued roughly 600 high school diplomas, equivalency degrees and certificates of completion. Graduates have a one-year recidivism rate of 44 percent. That’s significantly less than the 68 percent rate for other former inmates, and it has encouraged the establishment of a small number of similar prison high schools—using the San Francisco program as a model—throughout the country.

Entering inmates often read at a fourth- or fifth-grade level, the article notes.

Proud mom Latrice Alexander clapped and smiled widely on Tuesday as her son, Anthony Taylor, 22, accepted his high school diploma at the prison graduation ceremony.

“It’s a happy moment right now, very happy,” she told the newspaper, crediting her son for not giving up.

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