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LCF Revives Graduation Ceremony

by Cheryl Cadue last modified Jan 03, 2017 12:01 PM
Pomp and circumstance returned to Lansing Correctional Facility (LCF) Thursday with the graduation of 55 inmates earning their GED and industry-recognized certificates.

State Sen. Greg Smith of Overland Park gave the keynote address at the ceremony that the Lansing prison has not hosted in years. LCF staff could not remember the last time a ceremony was held or why the practice was suspended. But the graduates, their families and LCF staff welcomed the opportunity to recognize the graduates who earned certificates for GED, welding and work readiness programs

“Education is an equalizer,” Smith told the graduates. “You made a choice to use education to excel and better yourself.”

Smith, who chairs the legislature’s Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight, said the inmates took the first step toward improving their chances of future success.

“Research says correctional program graduates have 43 percent lower odds of re-offending and 13 percent higher employment rates upon release,” he said.

And by lowering incarceration rates and costs through re-entry and education programming, Kansas is made safer, he said.

“Life is about choices,” Smith said. “Circumstances do not dictate outcomes. This choice to pursue education can only provide a better future for you and your families.”

Unlike typical ceremonies, the graduates donned graduation caps and gowns only briefly. Moths and age had taken a toll on the long-since stored burgundy-colored regalia, but the graduates readily shared the salvageable dozen gowns and three caps for photographs to commemorate their achievements.

The KDOC’s educational provider, Southeast Kansas Education Service Center (Greenbush), revived LCF’s graduation ceremony to instill a sense of pride in the graduates for their hard work, said Jay Hertel, Greenbush’s director of correctional education. The graduation, which Hertel now hopes to host every six months, also serves as an inspiration to other inmates, he said.

“Those inmates back in the cell houses see we’re doing something special to honor the graduates and maybe those inmates will want to get involved and better themselves too,” Hertel said.

With punch and cookies donated by the KDOC’s food service provider, ARAMARK, the graduates were congratulated by their family members, Sen. Smith, KDOC staff and their Greenbush teachers after the ceremony.

For one graduate, the event finally gave the 21-year-old inmate the opportunity to let his mother attend a graduation since he began serving as a juvenile offender when he was 14 years old.

“This adds expectations now,” said the graduate of earning his GED certificate. “I have to decide what to do next.”

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