First inmate high school graduate part of new DOC program

It's a first for the Arizona Department of Corrections, one of its inmates graduated high school while serving her sentence.

We're not talking about a GED, this is an actual diploma.

It's a brand new program being implemented in just a handful of prisons.

Behind the heavily guarded gates that lead to the entrance of Perryville Prison in Goodyear, inmates like Ashleigh Gibbons are making the most of their time behind bars.

"I have about three years left," said Ashleigh Gibbons.

Gibbons who is six month into her sentence has already accomplished something no other inmate can say they have done, at least not in the State of Arizona. On January 28, 2015 Gibbons graduated high school.

"Good, I feel accomplished, I don't feel like I am so behind anymore, I feel good, I feel proud of myself," she said.

Gibbons is the first DOC inmate to complete the newly accredited high school life learning academy. Unlike a GED the program is tied to the same state educational standards that all Arizona public students must meet.

"Our goal is with an education that inmates can increase their chances of staying out of prison, and that is good for all of Arizona," said DOC Director of Education Tim Lawrence.

60 inmates are currently enrolled, 57 in Tucson, and 3 in Perryville. The program which took 2 1/2 years to establish serves inmates 21-years-old or younger.

"We will certainly be tracking, we're developing a system where we can see what happens with these inmates after they achieve their diploma and left us," he said.

"I've always liked school, I just let the drugs take over, I've always enjoyed it," said Gibbons.

Gibbons aspires to go to college and become a psychologist, and feels her newest accomplishment will take her down the right path.

The DOC is hoping to take the program statewide.
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