RESTON, VA - The Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation (GAERF) is pleased to announce that, for the first time ever, a prison inmate has been awarded a PrintED certification. John Phillips, 41, an inmate at the Northern Regional Jail and Correctional Facility in Moundsville, WV received a certification in Offset Press Operations after passing an online standardized PrintED examination.
As with most prisons, inmates at the Northern Regional Jail and Correctional Facility are not allowed access to the Internet. When Instructor Eric Dye took charge of the graphic communications program in July 2007, he was determined to change that obstacle so that inmates could participate in PrintED certification examinations.
Though initially hesitant to allow online testing, the prison warden finally gave permission for inmate Phillips to register to take the examination, but only under the strict supervision of Jeannette Donohew, lead teacher and Office of Institutional Education Programs (OIEP) Correctional Educational Association accreditation process manager.
Thus it was Donohew who registered Phillips for the testing, and Donohew who, on the day of the test, accessed the online test site as Phillips' proctor, input Phillips' pass code and clicked through the initial test pages to the first question. Phillips had limited access to the computer: He sat in front of it only when answering a question-Donohew even clicked the "submit" button after Phillips finished the exam. It was, nevertheless, the first time ever that a prison inmate had taken an online PrintED certification examination.
Phillips is now preparing to take the Introduction to Graphic Communications and the Digital File Preparation examinations. "He's proud that, even at 41, he is continuing his education and his training," comments Donohew.
Phillips has found employment in the correctional industries print shop, operating a Sakurai two-color press. Donohew says his training and PrintED certification helped him land a position in the prison's competitive job environment. "We try to approximate the normal work place as much as we can," she explained.
"Inmates have to apply and interview for these jobs. John was hired because of his skills and qualifications coming out of our PrintED program. The momentum is beginning to build, and we will have more and more students working toward this achievement," Dye observed. "They're really motivated."
Phillips is currently serving a lengthy sentence, but is involved in a court case to try to get his sentence reduced. Whether he wins the case or not, both Dye and Donohew believe his PrintED certification is an important step forward for him and other inmates at the Northern Regional Jail and Correctional Facility.
"Regardless of the length of their sentences, these inmates can't go on every day without a sense of hope," Donohew explained. "If inmates do get their sentences reduced and are released, their hope and our hope is that they're prepared to be productive citizens."
"We applaud John Phillips on his PrintED achievement and his efforts to further his career even while incarcerated. We also commend the WV Department of Education and their prison educational programming staff for going the extra mile in securing such opportunities for their inmates," said Ralph J. Nappi, GAERF president.
In 2003, the Northern Regional Jail and Correctional Facility became the first PrintED-accredited correctional facility in the state of West Virginia, and this milestone shows it is continuing to set the bar on how prison career training programs can-and should-operate. Studies have shown that educational programs create a more positive prison environment and can lead to lower rates of recidivism. There are currently nine PrintED-accredited prison programs in the country.
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