STAR Community Justice Center in Franklin Furnace just completed the next step in aiding their mission to assist those in their care.
STAR (which stands for Structure, Therapy, Advocacy and Restoration) is a community based correctional facility that houses 250 non-violent felony offenders, offering a variety of programming to help offenders get their lives back on track.
“We do a variety of programming here, everything from cognitive behavioral therapy to target criminal thinking, to substance abuse treatment, to anger management,” explained Executive Director Eddie Philabaun. “We help people get their education on track, we have a job readiness class to create resumes and fill-out job applications. We have a family outreach program, and a Loved One’s group to help reconnect them with their families before they graduate the program. We really try to take a holistic approach to try and treat each person on a individual basis.”
As of Jan. 3, 2017, the center now serves as General Education Development (GED) testing site.
Since its beginning, STAR has worked with residents to help them obtain their GED and other educational goals. However, in order to receive a GED, you have to take the GED test. Unfortunately, the closest GED testing center to STAR was located nearly an hour away, at the University of Rio Grande.
This posed a problem for a number of reasons, transportation had to be arranged and they had to operate on the University of Rio Grande’ schedule, making it difficult for testing opportunities.
“We would prepare them here to take the exam and then we would have to transport them to the University of Rio Grande. They would take the exam and if they passed the exam there, that was great. There are four parts to the test, and too many weren’t able to pass all four parts on the first try,” explained Vocational Coordinator Dusty Kellogg. “We didn’t have them here long enough to give them more opportunities to pass the other parts. All too often, we would have residents who were close to passing and didn’t quite make it and we wouldn’t have time to reschedule the exam, transport them and prepare them for it. I didn’t like that.”
Kellogg worked with Pearson-Vue, the company that creates the GED test to have STAR become its own testing site. It took over three months for the site to be approved.
“We had to go through all kinds of technical specs, trying to get the computers setup exactly the way they needed them. We actually had to submit photos to show that our testing center was exactly the way they wanted it. I personally had to go through a training program just to be able to administer the exam,” said Kellogg. “Now, we have a testing center that is right beside our GED classroom. When they’re finished and they’re ready from the GED class we can say, ‘OK, when do you want to take this exam? Friday?’ I’ll go in there with them, they take the exam and if they don’t pass all four parts, they can prepare more with our GED teacher, Mr. Martin and maybe four or five days later they can retake those missing parts.”
Helping residents obtain their GED plays a vital role in their success outside of the criminal justice system.
According to a special report issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 68 percent of inmates did not receive their high school diploma. One in six inmates dropped out of school because they were convicted of a crime, sent to a correctional facility, or otherwise involved in illegal activities. Over a third of inmates said the main reason they quit school was because of academic problems, behavior problems, or lost interest. About a fifth of gave economic reasons for leaving school, primarily going to work, joining the military, or needing money.
According to Kellogg, 36 residents have passed the test in the last 12 months, but he expects that number to climb now that testing opportunities aren’t restricted by strict schedules and transportation issues.
Statistics have shown that when a resident leaves STAR with full-time employment, the likelihood that they relapse back into criminal behavior is cut in half.
“Having a GED not only helps residents find jobs, but also helps boost self-esteem and confidence,” said Kellogg. “It really makes a difference in their lives.”
In fact, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that approximately 26 percent of inmates complete their GED while serving time in a correctional facility.
For more information about STAR Community Justice Center, please visit www.starcjc.com
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977, Facebook “Ciara Conley - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara.