I have had the opportunity to work as a probation officer for a period of time, and in no other profession have I seen the importance of adult education and literacy, not only in increasing the chances of getting a job but also in keeping people from going to prison.
I remember the first month that I started working. I was still at the academy and finally had the opportunity to meet with my first probationer. He was a young man who had dropped out of high school. He was far behind on his probation fees, and when I asked him why that was, he said it was because he could not find a job anywhere.
I asked him how hard he was trying to find work, and he said that he went out every day and visited several places with absolutely no luck whatsoever. I asked if he thought it was because he was on probation that he was not getting job offers, and he said he felt that was part of it, but part of it was also the fact that many of the places wanted at least a high school diploma. He actually told me that he had a couple of employers tell him that they were not as worried about him being on probation as they were about his lack of education.
I started looking at adult education and literacy referrals for such probationers immediately, and soon found out that GED and high school equivalence opportunities were offered abundantly. Universities have them, school districts and libraries offer them, and most of them are actually pretty affordable.
From that point on, any time I discovered one of my probationers did not have at least his or her GED, I would refer them to an adult education and literacy program, and essentially begin to watch their lives improve. Not only were they getting an education and working toward a diploma or GED, but they were gaining more confidence and their self-worth was improving.
I soon started to see where my probationers who had gone through an adult education and literacy program were getting pretty decent jobs, and able to complete the conditions of their probation. More important than that even was that once they had completed their terms of probation, they were not coming back.
It has always been amazing to me to see how much an education can do for a person. I watched many of my probationers participate in adult education and literacy programs and improve the quality of their lives in a way that most of them never imagined possible.