DUNCAN, Okla. – The Stephens County Sheriff has teamed up with the Red River Technology Center to offer a GED program for the inmates so that, when they are released, they have the chance to become better members of society.
The Sheriff did not have to look far for someone to teach the program because the teacher, Karen Boyer, is also behind bars.
7News first met Boyer last year when she almost ran over the sheriff and came close to hitting our car while leading authorities on a chase. Now she says she has turned her life around and wants to share her 18-years of classroom experience with others in jail.
"Basically my life was spiraling down and I didn't admit that I had a drinking problem," said Boyer, who formerly taught in Duncan.
Boyer says that is because she only developed the addiction a couple of years ago, when she started battling depression and other mental health issues.
"Started out buying one beer, then it was buying two, buying a six pack," said Boyer.
Even after her arrests for drunk driving, Boyer says she kept drinking until she found herself in jail for almost hitting the sheriff with her car.
"I'm so thankful that no one else was harmed," said Boyer.
As Boyer learned to deal with her disease behind bars, she says she met a new world of people and most of them had never received a basic education.
"It opened my eyes to what a literacy problem there was," said Boyer.
There is also a problem with basic math skills. Brian Howard is one of them. He went to prison when he was in the tenth grade.
"Wasn't into [school], wasn't wanting to learn, wasn't hip to it, I was more hip to getting high and being ignorant," said Howard.
After 13 years in prison, and finding himself back behind bars again, Howard says he is ready for a change.
"I've been to prison once, I failed on my education there, and facing the time I'm facing, I'm tired of sitting there being ignorant and not knowing what to do in life," said Howard.
With Boyer's help, Howard hopes never to wear an orange jump suit again once he is released.
"Today everybody ask for a GED or a high school diploma. All I can produce is discharge papers from the penitentiary," said Howard.
"There's just something there and it touches your heart when you realize there's a need there for that," said Boyer.
Sheriff McKinney says if they are able to turn the life of one inmate around, then he will consider the program a success. He says it is not for all inmates, especially violent criminals, but most people heading to jails and prisons today are drug offenders.
Some of the inmates took their first GED tests Friday to help determine areas they need to work on. The sheriff says they will hold classes a couple of times a week.