Rachael Chestnut has long been an advocate for adult education, particularly in the correctional setting. As an adult educator she has witnessed the remarkable impact that intentional support and opportunities have on incarcerated individuals.
She has worked in adult education for twelve years and inside a local jail for nearly ten years. “I tell people I have been in jail for a decade,” she jokes. A countless number of individuals have participated in adult education classes and 150 have completed their studies, passed and earned a GED® credential while serving time in Laurel county.
“It is particularly rewarding when I see learners that I encountered behind bars being productive, holding jobs and caring for themselves or families – even better when I do not hear of them returning to jail,” she shared.
One of the most important aspects of success for correctional education is the support of the leadership and staff inside the correctional complex. “There are so many priorities and barriers to providing classes that it would be impossible to accomplish very much if our leadership didn’t support us,” Rachael says.
A new correctional complex was recently opened in London, KY where Rachael works. It includes a well- appointed and equipped computer lab classroom combo. “We can accommodate learners who prepare for the GED® test online as well as learners who need assistance with basic skills or job skills. Some of the instruction that happens is lecture-based with group-learning opportunities, but much is self-paced,” Rachael explains. “We use FastForward, an online learning course from KET Adult Education. I am a big fan of FastForward because it contains everything the learner needs to prepare including all subjects, practice, extra supportive material and the management system lets me keep up with what the learner is studying and how they are progressing. This is very important because each one of our learners is at a different level and has different circumstances so self-pace is very important”.
The learning classroom/lab also includes the ability to test onsite. “We are not able to transport incarcerated learners to be able to take the test elsewhere so with the support of our Jailer, we were able to build the secure computer lab and become a testing center. Our IT staff whitelists the coursework and testing portal so that our learners can have internet access. IT constantly monitors to ensure compliance and safety and the way the lab is constructed; I always have eyes on every computer screen when in use. It works for us and we have had no negative incidents with our learners”, Rachael explains.
Rachael’s program is part of Kentucky Adult Education and is supported by her colleagues there, as well as the staff at the Laurel Co Detention Center and local county officials. “It really does take a village to make this program successful for learners. I am thankful to all that provide support for my work.”
If you would like to know more about how some correctional settings implement FastForward, contact adulted@KET.org or look for upcoming webinars hosted by KET Adult Ed that focus on adult education in corrections.