Anamosa inmates look to the future with graduation ceremonies

An inmate at the Anamosa State Penitentiary receives a high school equivalency diploma in a...
An inmate at the Anamosa State Penitentiary receives a high school equivalency diploma in a ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. 32 inmates graduated with either high school or apprenticeship degrees. (Dave Franzman/KCRG-TV9)(KCRG)
Published: Dec. 13, 2017 at 5:29 PM CST
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The traditional caps and gowns made an appearance. But the setting for one graduation ceremony on Wednesday was definitely different.

This year, 32 inmates serving their time at the Anamosa State Penitentiary put their time to good use by finishing high school degrees or completing apprenticeship training. And those graduates were recognized at a ceremony inside prison walls.

Twenty of the inmates finished their high school degrees. Twelve others completed courses in trades like computer operator, welding, plumber, electrician and other skills.

Some of the inmates may put their new degrees to good use quickly with some expecting release soon.

Noah LaPrei, who has a few years to go, thinks having a degree might even help him win early release from the parole board.

“Whatever positive steps I can make to look better in the parole board’s eyes, it’s great. But for myself, it’s a great thing too to get a degree now and not struggle to get one when I’m out in my 20s or 30s,” he said.

Several inmate graduates say they won’t stop with the degree received Wednesday. Some new high school graduates plan to go on to apprenticeship training while serving time.

Others may start some college degrees behind bars.

Arthur Benson, the oldest high school graduate at this ceremony at age 39, thinks it will help him teach his kids at home.

“It made me feel better on the inside. I can go into places with confidence maybe further my education and attend a community college,” he said.

Kirkwood Community College along with Iowa Prison Industries offers 17 certified apprenticeship programs behind bars along with the high school equivalency classes.