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Go to jail, earn a college degree. That's the idea behind a program being pushed before the state legislature.

Supporters say partnering two-year degree programs with inmates would actually save money.

At the Washington Corrections Center for Women, life is about routine, restrictions, and rehabilitation. That rehabilitation also comes through education.

Retired Tacoma Community College professor Frank Witt is a guest lecturer in the horticulture class.

I can see so many youngsters here who found the wrong path to begin with, hoping that maybe we can change that, he said.

Carla Colores, Porsche Washington and Desiree Washington are all serving sentences for murder.

A lot of us in here when we get out, it's hard to get a job and stuff because we're felons, said Calores, who will be released later this month after serving 18 years.

While they're incarcerated, the inmates earn a basic education and vocational skills. Washington Community Colleges and some state correctional facilities want to take that one step further by offering two-year degrees.

I would like us to have an opportunity to offer more than just vocational programs, said Carol Evenhuis, Education Director for Tacoma Community College at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

Evenhuis says in doing so, the recidivism rate of 34 percent drops dramatically, to 10 percent. Taxpayer savings is another incentive. Evenhuis says investing a little money now saves considerable money later.

It costs about $2,000 a year to educate an inmate. It costs $34,000 to house an inmate at WCCW for one year-- which raises an obvious question: You hear that well, I guess I'll have to commit a crime in order to go to prison and get an education, said Evenhuis.

Porsche Washington, 34, has already served 18 years, with five more to go. She says expanding educational opportunities for inmates like her is an investment with a longterm payoff.

If they expect us to be different, to show that we're different, then give us that chance to take that education as far as we want to take it, Washington said.

Desiree Nielsen, 54, excels in drafting and technical design. As a single mom struggling on the outside, she believes prison save her from herself.

And if we want us to go back into life and not reoffend, then you're gonna have to help us some, she said.

If the legislature votes to expand the program, inmates would likely pick up the cost for books and tuition at a graduated rate. Taxpayers would foot the bill for administrative costs and instructors.

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