“Those doors can be reopened,” Oklahoma inmates getting an education before heading back into society

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OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s the time of year when going back to school is on everyone’s mind, but there’s a group of students we don’t think of often: inmates preparing for release.

More than 1,000 DOC inmates get their GED each year. It’s thanks to the dozens of teachers in their staff – teachers like Todd Winn.

Winn is adjusting from teaching high school students for 30 years to, now, those looking for a second chance.

“They felt like – and it was – every door was open to them, and that’s what we teach them,” he said of the students who he taught before going to the DOC. “For the men and women that I work with – I want them to know that those doors can be reopened.”

Those in need of an education are tested as they go in; from there, a lesson plan is tailored toward what they need to get back in the workforce, along with things we all face like rent, medical bills and the holidays.

But, it’s not just life skills they’re gaining. For some, they’re learning to trust again.

“I shouldn’t be so afraid to go out there and live life again because I’m still alive and kicking and I have people on my side,” said Jamie Dean, an inmate and student of Winn’s.

For others, they’re working to regain the trust of those who mean the most to them.

“I’m trying to learn to be a better mother and person, and I’m doing all of this for him and for them and also doing this for myself,” said Shannon Johnson.

“I want them to understand as much as anything that they can restart their lives, that they can go out and be productive citizens,” Winn said.

Education is available for men and women in every DOC facility. It’s mandatory for anyone whose education level is lower than high school.

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