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In DC, Teachers Run the Jail. It’s Turning Inmates Into Students.

Jerard Briscoe is away at school. Or at least, that’s what he tells his kids.

It’s a plausible story. He studies for GED math exams. He reads e-books and takes courses using a tablet computer. He even wears a uniform: an orange jumpsuit and white Velcro sneakers. 

“If you’re at college, you can’t go home everyday anyway. I just put my mindset like I’m really at school,” he says. “So when I tell my kids that, I’m lying a little bit, but I’m not really lying, because I am at school.”

He thinks for a beat. 

“Alternative school.” 

That idea is spreading through the corridors at the D.C. Central Detention Facility, slipping past security checkpoints and into cells where incarcerated residents watch Khan Academy videos and craft their resumes. It’s a big shift from just a few years ago, when inmates say they passed long days with little to do but play cards and pick fights.