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First graduation ceremony takes place at Douglas County jail

Posted at 9:58 PM, Apr 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-18 22:58:57-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Within the courtroom of the Douglas County Corrections Center, many decisions are made that impact the lives and future of those incarcerated there.

But on Thursday, the robes in the courtroom were worn by inmates, not a judge, a symbol of their own plans for the future — during the first graduation ceremony to ever be held in the jail.

The 12 inmates who received their diplomas are the newest grads of the decades-long voluntary program who share optimism for their futures beyond bars.

“I was very determined so it helped me expand my mind to things and want to keep growing, you know, like pushing myself forward for things I didn't know,” said Ortrilla J., a graduate. “And being I have a child in kindergarten, it'll help me in being able to teach her more."

Douglas County Department of Corrections Director Michael Myers said though the waiting list for the GED program is long — as many as 100 inmates at a time — ceremonies like Thursday's show inmates and correctional staff alike that meaningful and positive outcomes are possible even in jail; and that education is a piece of the puzzle to reduce recidivism.

"It's given me a different perspective on life,” said Felix Yata, another grad. “And now I have a newborn daughter out there and I just want her to see that I can do it, so that when she gets older in life, I want to see her do it too."

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