Lisa Ling with San Francisco inmates

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According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a high school dropout is eight times more likely to end up in jail than a high school graduate. Lisa Ling goes behind bars at a San Francisco jail to find out what can happen to children when America's educational system fails them.

At this prison facility, Lisa learns that 75 percent of the inmates are dropouts. One prisoner says he quit school when he was just 12 years old. For most of these men and women, their education ended more than a decade ago...but that's about to change.

Sunny Schwartz, an attorney who has worked in the San Francisco County Jail system for more than 20 years, is spearheading the first high school for adults behind bars. "We have to interrupt that cycle of violence," she says. "We have to hold them accountable by teaching them how to read."

Inmates also learn life lessons through algebra. One man uses a mathematical formula to calculate that he's spent 44 percent of his life behind bars or on drugs. He's only 29 years old.

What would these men be doing if they weren't enrolled in Sunny's school? "I would be here learning how to become a better criminal," an inmate says.
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FROM: Oprah's Special Report: American Schools in Crisis
Published on April 12, 2006

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