Final Summary: GED Programming in Correctional Facilities

Final Summary: GED Programming in Correctional Facilities

Shannon Dutchie

This has been a difficult but fulfilling journey that is nowhere near over for me. There is still quite a bit that I want to do and discover. This research project held challenges that I didn’t expect and wasn’t prepared for. To say I learned something is an understatement; I learned a lot. I learned to be resilient, to speak up, to think outside of the box, to stay focused, to go with the flow, and to expect to fail. The last was a little harder to swallow, but probably the most important. I had to learn that things wouldn’t always go the way they did in my head. Sometimes you don’t find what you’re looking for, but you find something you needed.

I found that GED programming might not be the key to decreasing recidivism and aiding reentry, but it defintely has positive effects and can be a game changer with the right resources.

My Personal Journey

For the past 4 years, prisons have been a passion of mine. A lot of the things I would hear about the justice system on the news were not reassuring. Most of the focus tended to be on police brutality and the court process, but I had a soft spot for prisoners. The incarcerated population is considered vulnerable by both the scientific community and the federal government, meaning they’re more at risk of being taken advantage of than other populations. The prison population doesn’t really seem to have a voice and what goes on behind bars can be mystery. This prompted me to really begin to research prison history in the United States and learn more about our surging prison population.

As a Freshman, I was taking Professor Dallaire’s Families, Law, and Psychology course and incorporating my passion into every class that I could. My final paper in Professor Charity Hudley’s African-American English course was about educating Blacks in prisons and the difficulties they may face. In Professor Josse’s Intro to Public Policy course, I wrote a policy memo advocating for mandatory correctional education programs in state facilities. This project was years in the making and is only the beginning for me.

Currently I volunteer with Merrimac Mentors, a student organization on campus that promotes positive and supportive interactions between William and Mary students and the residents of Merrimac Juvenile Detention Center. Out of every club I participate in, Merrimac is the most fulfilling. Sometimes it feels like those residents mentor me instead of the other way around.  I also plan to begin volunteering at Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail (VPRJ) this coming fall as part of a new organization.

My Research

Most of my summer was spent reading and documenting. Reaching out to different organization for information was difficult as I presumed it would be and generally I didn’t get a response, but I won’t give up. Most likely, I just need to start smaller….or think bigger. My main goal was increasing community involvement and awareness of correctional educational programming. In the future, I hope to work with some nonprofits in the Williamsburg community and students organizations on campus to produce material that can be distributed and generate discussions.

A lot of the information I read about has been pretty well documented, but not well-recieved. Often, people don’t want to talk about prisoners. The rhetoric surrounding the incarcerated population usually involves the word ‘criminal’ and ‘punishment.’ Whenever someone brings up a more rehabilitative approach, there is more than a bit of resistance. I hope to challenge that mindset and share the facts. Tough on crime isn’t working and it never did.

VA Department of Corrections

Part of my research revolved around looking at the VA Department of Correction’s GED program. Here are some of links to operation procedures and state guidelines, which I found to be particularly interesting. I couldn’t go inside, but this helped me get a picture of how the program functions

VDOC Operating Procedure: Academic Programs

VDOC Operating Procedures: Student Orientation and Information

VDOC Operating Procedures: Education Testing

§ 53.1-10. Powers and duties of Director

§ 53.1-32.1 . Classification system; program assignments; mandatory participation



  • Virginia Department of Corrections