Walker State Prison program prepares inmates to get out and stay out

Classes that are offered at Walker State Prison include everything from computer science and welding to marriage and relationships.

More than a quarter of the inmates released from Georgia prisons end up back behind bars within three years.

The state recidivism rate is 27%, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.

That means once they are free, 27% of the state's offenders end up committing another crime and returning to prison.

At Walker State Prison, that rate is less than 2%.

Inmates credit the prison's Faith and Character Based program, one of 18 across Georgia.

"The difference here is you don't have to worry about your safety. You don't have to worry about looking over your shoulder," said inmate Garrett Anderson. "You can focus strictly on you and your growth and your potential to be a better person."

A judge sentenced Anderson to serve 20 years back in 2015, but he didn't start out at Walker State. He actually applied to transfer there.

"I was wanting to do something productive with my time," Anderson told NewsChannel 9.

The program includes four very structured phases, ideal for recovering addict Scott Reed, who's been convicted four times.

"It's a pretty tight ship - I'll put it that way," Reed said. "But because of that we don't have any of the things that other prisons have to worry about. There's no drugs here. There's no tobacco products here."

Reed says this is the first time he has felt surrounded by people wanting to change and willing to do what it takes.

Inmates start with classes that require them to reflect on how they ended up here.

Once they've worked on themselves, the focus shifts towards what work they can do for others in a career with classes like computer science and welding.

"I just got accepted into the fire station which means I'll go through the fire training and be actively fighting fires in Walker County," said Reed.

Establishing a new relationship with God and strengthening old relationships with loved ones are also at the heart of the program.

The prison holds church services for different faiths seven days a week and regularly invites inmates' families to participate in prison events.

Prisoners say at Walker State, they're treated like humans instead of inmates, and that's what will make the transition from custody to community permanent.

"Here you put value on your life. You learn that you are important. You are worth something," said Reed. "Especially when you hang out with your kids, you realize they need you as a father, your family needs you as a son, the world out there needs you as a productive member of society."

Anderson is eligible for parole in 2022 but he is trying to get a hearing for a new trial.

Reed will not be released for another ten years.

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