Inmates at the Oneida County Correctional Facility are turning their lives around. At a graduation ceremony, 16 inmates were recognized for completing their GED, taking anger management courses or completing life skills counseling. As our Cara Thomas found out, the courses taught them lessons they'll never forget.
ORISKANY, N.Y. -- Everyone makes mistakes, some big enough to land a person in jail. But it's the lessons learned and the second chances that have changed the mindsets of a handful of inmates at the Oneida County Correctional Facility.
One inmate, Shauna Standen, said, "What put me here was me being stupid, really."
Standen and Ryan Nicholas were two of those inmates. And both took the opportunity to do something productive while in jail. Standen got her GED and went through life skills counseling and Nicholas completed an anger management course.
"It's gonna put you on the right track if you really want to do it, if you really want to turn your life around then you need to get into a program or programs to focus on what you need help with, you know?" said Nicholas.
Standen said, "If I was going to be in here, I wanted to do something. I don't like sitting around, I'm not one to sit around."
The Oneida County Sheriff presided over the jail's first large graduation ceremony and 16 inmates not only received their own diplomas, they've gained knowledge to last them a life time.
Sarah McIntosh, the Project Director from Mohawk Valley Community Action Agency, said, "By having these programs in the jail it will just encourage more opportunities for them to learn skills, so that when they're released they can do something different with their lives."
Now these new graduates have high goals for the future and they say the help they received through these available programs will be the reason they succeed.
Standen said, "When I get out of here, I already put in an application to MVCC, I want to go to college because I want to be an RN to major in maternity."
"I just want to work and do the right thing. I want to get my license back, I just want to stay free," said Nicholas.
County officials say they hope these programs will not only benefit the inmates, but in the end, have a positive impact on the entire community.
Program instructors say having courses like these in correctional facilities have been proven to turn people's lives around. They say they've had past inmates receive and maintain employment after their release and most importantly, they've seen those former inmates stay out of trouble.