If it comes down to using an HSED program it would mean a difference of nearly three times the estimated cost of a GED (compare $1100 to $350 per student). Until I find a better option it appears James Madison High School in Georgia is the most comprehensive HSED correspondence program. A trustworthy, straightforward school has been a major sticking point in moving forward with the death row education project.
Not wanting to ignore Wake Tech in my search, I’ve written to Dan Degen, an administrator at the community college currently providing a GED program to regular population prisoners at Central Prison—but not death row. Mr. Degen has yet to respond to either of my letters, but I explained what I’m trying to do and asked for his guidance. Following up on what Wake Tech can or cannot do has turned out to be fruitless.
Next I spoke with some programs staff at the prison about the Wake Tech GED class offered to regular population prisoners. Once I explained the reason for my query it was suggested I write a proposal to the Associate Warden of Programs. Not satisfied with the information, I asked a shift captain and was told in all seriousness to write the Deputy Director of the DPS. Despite his status he’s interested in prison reform and would actually read a letter from a death row prisoner. This sounded like a good idea except it would mean breaking the internal chain of command—an important thing to avoid when looking for help in a bureaucratic system. So I’ve written proposals to the AWOP, Unit Manager (who like the idea enough to forward it to the AWOP), and warden. Of the three the only feedback came from the unit manager. For now it seems the administration wants nothing to do with a Death Row Education Project.
I attempted to contact Lao Rubert, director of the Carolina Justice Policy Center, after speaking with my attorney because I knew this project would be bigger than my efforts alone. The Carolina Justice Policy Center is a “nonprofit organization dedicated to developing and promoting effective, equitable and humane solutions to criminal justice problems, [and] has worked on a wide range of policy issues including sentencing reform . . and addressing critical problems in the use of the death penalty.” Okay, maybe they were only loosely related to the idea of education in prison, but any help would have been better than none. Ms. Rubert didn’t respond to my letters either.
I get it. Here is this convicted murderer asking about improving the quality of understanding for a small group of people in a population slated for execution. Off-putting if you don’t’ deal with prisoners or some element of the criminal justice system, but not an unreasonable pursuit. In fact, I had hoped by now the national conversation about the death penalty and sentence reform would make the people I’m trying to contact more willing to listen, more open to the idea that educating every prisoner is a good thing. That it is much more costly to incarcerate and execute than it is to educate. Apparently it has yet to really sink in on all fronts. I will continue with the final step of the administrative remedy by writing to the Deputy Director of the DPS and see what he has to say about extending the prison’s GED program to death row prisoners.