85 inmates celebrate graduation behind bars in Dayton

Dayton Correctional Institution (WDTN Photo)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Women serving sentences at the Dayton Correctional Institution are celebrating a graduation ceremony.

On Tuesday, 85 inmates received certificates from Sinclair Community College.

Kamisha Thomas was one of those women. Thomas was sentenced to 9 years in prison for aggravated robbery in 2012. However, she refuses to look at it as such and calls her sentence an investment.

“I have been determined to grow and be a different person walking out than I was walking in,” said Thomas, 36.

Graduation caps filled the gymnasium at the Dayton Correctional Institution (DCI)  as 203 certificates were awarded with some women receiving more than just one.

Thomas graduated with a customer service technician certificate.

“Pursue education, the only thing people can’t take from you is your knowledge,” she said.

Thomas has been working toward hers since 2015. Not allowing her mistakes to define her or her future.

“It’s important. So, I can show what I have been doing with my time and now I have some credentials behind my name that say I was productive while I was here,” said Thomas.

Sinclair Community College has been operating the program at DCI for decades. Sinclair spokesperson, Adam Murka says the program and others like it have reduced recidivism by 30 percent statewide.

“About 65 percent of people who go inside never held a real job down before that. It’s offering people who are inside Ohio’s correctional facilities an opportunity to get a skill set to make sure they don’t come back,” said Murka.

Sinclair offers classes to inmates at 7 Ohio prisons. The program costs $1.75 million to operate and is mostly state funded, according to Murka.

“It costs $26,000 to incarcerate them in Ohio. It costs about a thousand to send them to school,” he said.

A priceless opportunity for graduates like Thomas.

“I’m more mature, more equipped to handle problems in life without the use of alcohol or drugs. More grateful for the small things. I don’t take anything for granted and I won’t take anything for granted,” said Thomas.

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