Proud day in a dreary place: CUCF inmates receive high school diplomas

Proud day in a dreary place: CUCF inmates receive high school diplomas


James Tilson

Staff writer



GUNNISON — Graduates of Central Utah Academy, on June 15, walked to their high school graduation.

It was a proud day in an otherwise dreary place.

Central Utah Academy, after all, is the education program at the Central Utah Correctional Facility; its students are the facilities prisoners.

But on that one day last week, those inmates—with friends and families also gathered to watch the ceremony—were able to put aside their usual drab existence to celebrate the culmination of efforts that in some cases had taken many years.

The event was “a great time to take the next step in your life,” said Mary Kelly, the director of adult education for the Utah Department of Corrections (UDC), who addressed the group.

She congratulated the graduates for passing the barrier of under-education and, by so doing, gaining greater access to employment and even further education.

Kelly was one of several officials from throughout Utah who gathered at the prison to celebrate the achievement of the inmates.

Victor Kersey, the Institutional Programming Division director for the UDC, told graduates that a high school degree is like an ink pen: “If [the pen] is left alone, it will dry up and will be useless.”

He urged graduates to build on their educational achievements and apply their lessons to new skill sets.

Kersey cited a study by the Rand Corporation on the effectiveness of education in correctional institutions. The study showed a 43-percent reduction in recidivism rates among inmates who received education while incarcerated.

The study also showed their chances of employment are 13-percent higher, Kersey said.

“You never know what jobs you’ll have,” he said.

One graduate (who requested anonymity) addressed the audience and said the quotation, “Knowledge is power,” ascribed to Sir Francis Bacon, inspired him to complete his degree. He urged his fellow inmates to continue their own pursuits of education.

“The more you know, the better off you’ll be,” he said.