Inmates Graduate from GED/Vocational Programs

Ronnie Gidrey entered the Diboll State Prison when he was 18 years old, but today, he's no longer just another inmate. He's now a licensed carpenter and GED recipient. Gidrey went there an accessory to a robbery, but in 13 months, he plans to leave a college student.

"I'm still young," Gidrey said. "I'm only 20 years old, so I know I gotta step over it. I can move on with a GED and go get in construction or something."

Thirty-two prisoners graduated Friday. Some earned their high school diploma, others completed vocational training. While the graduation rate for minorities is low in the public school system, that's not the trend at the Diboll prison.

Principal John Cook said, "That tends to be the way it is categorically, but not necessarily how we have them in school. We have a pretty even distribution in school."

Inmates who don't have a diploma when they go to the Diboll prison are required to go to school. Billy Kizzie was a high school drop out, but now he's a certified construction worker and GED recipient. His crime: aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He's been locked up for six years and has one year left.

Kizzie said, "I had quit school in the ninth grade so I decided when I come to TDC, I might as well do something positive in my live so I'll have something to say to my kids when I get out; that I achieved something."

An achievement that will hopefully last a lot longer than his time behind bars.

Four of the graduates earned dual certificates Friday. Diboll prison officials said that is very rare because the inmates have to go to school for nine hours a day.