Prisoners offered new path


Photo submitted Middlesboro Police Department’s Barry Cowan, GED recipient Matthew Griffith and Bell County Jailer Gary Ferguson. Griffith is the latest success story of the Bell County Detention Center’s GED program.

The GED program at the Bell County Detention Center gives inmates an opportunity to leave behind past transgressions and bad decisions that put them behind bars. The program offers an education and a chance for a better life.

“You will never get them all but this program has a great turnout,” said Bell County Jailer Gary Ferguson. “We encourage them and it gives them a second chance. If they can get their GED, that gives them a greater opportunity of getting a better job and being more productive when the get back into normal society.”

The program has had a high success rate and Matthew Griffith is one of the success stories.

He said he never imagined this happening to him while in jail. When asked how it feels to receive his GED, the 24-year-old Griffith said, “It is an amazing feeling, — one of my best accomplishments.”

Griffin went on to say there were times when he felt like he couldn’t do it and he wanted to quit, but that Ferguson wouldn’t let him.

Middlesboro Police Officer Barry Cowan has taught adult education at the jail in Pineville for the last six years. He is the head of the GED program.

Cowan said he has seen cases where someone, well on their way down the wrong path changed their life for the better.

“Some of them have been very successful, got their GED, even went on to college and really turned their lives around.”

The test has changed in recent months and is harder now then it used to be. Due to that, Cowan says the success rate has dropped, not just in Bell County but across the state.

“Matt is one of approximately 15 in the county to make it,” said Cowan. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication and that is what he gave, he was in class every time the door was open.

Now that Griffin has completed the program he is serving as an assistant to Cowan, helping others get their GEDs.

Reach William Tribell at (606) 302-9100 or on Twitter @wtribellmdn

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