When Sherman Tate was arrested and booked into the McCracken County Jail late last year, he hadn't thought much about getting his GED diploma.
Tate, who dropped out of school when he was 10 years old, had worked odd jobs, trying to support his wife and three children.
The 33-year-old said Wednesday that "drugs and drinking" got hold of him after a falling out with his wife, and in October of last year he was arrested and eventually convicted on drug and theft charges.
In late July, Tate became the eighth inmate at the jail to successfully complete and pass the jail's in-house program.
"I expect it to open up better jobs for me … something to help me support my family better," Tate said.
The jail has in previous years held GED classes, but has not had the ability to test the inmates, which necessitated a deputy to take applicants to West Kentucky Community and Technical College for a test, a trip to another jail outside of the area which offered the test or, most realistically, inmates simply having to wait until they were released to test.
For many inmates, a lack of education combined with the inability to find steady work can contribute to risky behavior and eventually some criminal activity.
Since Jailer David Knight took over operations last year, he has instituted multiple initiatives aimed at rehabilitating inmates, including a welding course set to graduate its first class in September.
"My overall goal is for them not to come back, and be productive citizens," Knight said.
"What we did before didn't work. They kept coming back."
Knight worked closely with Programs Director Kayla Kaufman to determine how to take the jail's GED program further and allow in-house testing.
"We probably have close to 15 that are enrolled right know," Kaufman said.
Tate called the math part of the test "pretty rough," but Kaufman said Tate's total time from starting his studies to completing the test took less than a month.
Shortly after Tate graduated from the program, another inmate also completed the test, bringing the jail's total to nine graduates since the beginning of the year.
Kaufman said she already sees a positive, ready-to-learn attitude from those who have benefited from the program.
"Overall they're respectful. They listen," she said.
"I want to be able to see them on the outside … where they can be clean, be sober, be able to be back with their families."
The jail also has begun working with various industry professionals across the area to train its inmates in marketable skills, thereby improving the inmates' chances of landing a good job and also giving those industries a built-in pool of laborers who might otherwise be hard to find or recruit.
In addition to the welding program, Knight said a deckhand training program is almost ready to kick off.
"I said when I was running (for office) I thought we could at least make an impact on the community from within these walls, and I think we are."
Currently, all of this year's GED graduates are still incarcerated, so Knight said the proof of his programs' effectiveness will have to be measured in the coming days, months and years.
Tate said he wants to explore graphic design, as he has a penchant for computers, and said he hopes a steady job will "just keep me working, keep me stable."
He advised anyone, incarcerated or not, that it's never too late to continue their education, whether through a GED program or college.
"I'd just tell them not to give up. Anything's possible."