At far right, Cory Mathis holds the GED credential he earned through the Dougherty County Jail program sponsored by Sheriff Kevin Sproul at the far left. In the middle is the coordinator of the educational program, James Parker of Albany Technical College. Also awarded a GED credential on Wednesday was Anderson Williams.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Two men completed a first step away from inmate to productive member of society at the Dougherty County Jail Wednesday.
Cory Mathis and Anderson Williams completed the requirements to earn a GED credential under a program Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul and other Dougherty County Jail officials promoted while the two served time.
"This is the second formal graduation of GEDs we have had," said sheriff's Cpl. Thomas Bryant. "You have a second chance and it is now up to you. This is your first step toward becoming a productive citizen or parent so you can help your kids."
It is part of Sproul's goal as sheriff to reduce the numbers of inmates that return to his keeping, he said.
"Dougherty County is No. 1 in recidivist rates," Sproul said. "It is a vicious cycle. They start young with poor choices and drop out by eighth to 10th grade, get incarcerated and labeled a failure."
Sproul said his vision is to slow down the recidivism rate and eventually eliminate it through programs at the jail such as the GED program, alcohol and drug recovery programs and a program aimed at helping inmates assimilate into the community.
He spoke to the two new GED recipients when he said, "Don't come back. Use your GED to get a trade and a job. Make yourself a better person. You will need family support to forgive them and give them another chance."
Family support was evident at the graduation ceremony in a jail courtroom. A bench was occupied by members of the Mathis and Williams families, who took pictures, shed a tear or two, applauded and hoped for the best.
Mathis' mother, Sandra Mathis, said she believes her son took the second chance seriously. "I can tell he was serious about it. He called me about it all the time. I believe this is a change in his life," she said.
There are 25 men and 15 women enrolled in the program at the jail, said sheriff's Col. John Ostrander. The program does not receive any county or state money, he added. It costs $115 to take the GED test and books also cost. Anyone wishing to donate to the program can send a check to the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office, 225 Pine Avenue, Albany, Georgia 31701, with a note designating the donation for the GED program.