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Colorado Moves to Better Educate Prison Population

By Francisco Miraval

Denver, Jan 08, 2001 (EFE via COMTEX) -- The state of Colorado has teamed up with Colorado Mountain College to help better educate Hispanics incarcerated in the state's prison system.

The new program aims to help inmates learn English, computer skills and possibly earn a high school degree, all of which contribute to lowering recidivism rates and helping inmates reintegrate into society, the Colorado State Correctional Service said.

Over the last 10 years, the state's prison population has more than doubled from 7,794 inmates in 1991 to 16,249 in 2000.

In addition, the number of Hispanic inmates with limited or no educational backgrounds has risen dramatically.

Hispanic inmates now represent approximately 25 percent of the state's total prison population and many "lack a formal scholastic education," correction authorities said.

In parts of western Colorado, Hispanic inmates account for 70 percent of entire prison populations and many such prisoners speak only Spanish.

Such inmates/potential students are being targeted by the state's new educational program.

"Studies done by our department have revealed that recidivism drops between 20 percent to 35 percent among those inmates who complete their studies while in jail," the corrections department said in a press release.

"Our goal is for all inmates to complete at least an elementary education and to invite them to obtain a high-school equivalent degree."

In southwestern Colorado's Buena Vista correctional facility, English and computer classes are offered to the prison's 825 inmates, 500 of whom are Hispanic.

Colorado Mountain College professor Pam Hogan teaches inmates classes in English as a Second Language, while also helping them prepare for the GED exam.

Other popular courses include radio broadcasting, plumbing and introduction to computers.

In 2000, some 9,000 Colorado inmates registered for various vocational and academic classes.

Another 700 inmates earned high school diplomas while behind bars last year.

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