Kamisha Thomas wanted to do something productive while in prison and now she’ll leave with a certificate in customer service from Sinclair Community College.
Thomas was one of around 79 inmates honored Tuesday at Dayton Correctional Institution, a women’s prison. A combined 203 certificates were awarded at the ceremony, according to Sinclair.
Thomas is serving time for aggravated robbery and will file papers this August to be released, she said.
She admits her crime but says that’s not who she is. When she was growing up, she said, her parents instilled in her the need to get an education. Her father would pay her when she got an A or B on her report card, and she had to pay him if she received a D or F.
“(Sinclair teachers) have provided me with a productive way to do my time,” she said. “I am humbled and honored. I am more than the number the state assigned me and I am not the crime that I committed.”
Sinclair offers classes to inmates in seven Ohio prisons and has done so at DCI for decades, spokesman Adam Murka said. Around 424 prisoners at DCI have earned a credential from Sinclair and a combined 439 certificates have been awarded to them, according to the school.
Sinclair’s prison program costs $1.75 million to operate and a majority of the funding is provided by the state, Murka said.
Some inmates take the credits they earned in prison and put them toward a degree after they are released, Murka said, though there is no estimate on how many continue to pursue an education.
Thomas, who is from Columbus, said she plans to find a job with her customer service certificate while she pursues her passion in film. She was part of the “Pens to Pictures” program through Wright State University, which allowed incarcerated women to learn how to write scripts.
One graduate said she had already been admitted to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, while another said she was attempting to get into the University of Cincinnati.
Sinclair President Steve Johnson spoke at the graduation ceremony, which was held in the prison’s gymnasium. The ceremony was moved there from a visitors area in the prison to accommodate the number of inmates getting certificates, which was nearly twice as many as last year.
Some of the inmates were graduating with as many as five certificates, said Johnson, who told the graduates he was proud of them for using their incarceration to get an education. By earning certificates, Johnson said, they were becoming part of the community and “something bigger than any one of us.”
“You can take those certificates, one or five or 10, and use them,” Johnson said. “You can take those and cash them in.”