Amicus lector
How did the jail pay for GED testing? With pop machine money.

On Sunday, we ran a story on the jail’s GED program, which has discontinued as a result of changes in the testing requirements.

I touched on this briefly in my last blog post, but a few late-arriving details didn’t make it into the Sunday story (which was originally set to run today).

Anyway, here’s what’s missing: The story says there isn’t money budgeted for the computer work that would be necessary to re-introduce the GED program in the jail (unless the jail can get a waiver to allow them to use paper and pencil tests).

That doesn’t mean there isn’t any money.

While there isn’t a budget item for computers or a specific plan on how to move forward or who would provide the service for inmates, there is money allotted for the program that no longer exists.

Some was meant to pay the Volunteers of America for the program, which has been discontinued.

Interestingly, a good chunk of that money comes from pop machines in the jail, Sheriff Mike Milstead says. The machines took in $23,000 in 2013, the Sheriff said, and the GED program was “the primary recipient.” The program cost $17,654 this year.

As the story noted, GED testing is a different animal at a county jail than it is for the prisons. There are 20,000 inmates booked every year at the jail and the average length of stay is two weeks. That’s not enough time to participate in a GED program.

There would typically be between five and 10 inmates participating at a time, Milstead said. That’s five to 10 more than you’d find at the Pennington County Jail, which doesn’t offer a GED program for inmates.

The Sheriff and the commission are interested in continuing to offer GED testing. When the discussions happen, we’ll write about them.

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