Oriskany, NY (WIBX) - The Oneida County Jail was full of smiles as a small group of inmates took the next step towards a positive future.

Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol presided over a graduation ceremony, where 25 inmates were honored for completing GED classes. They also took part in Anger Management and Life Skills counseling.

Maciol says education programming gives ex-offenders a chance to succeed.

"They came to us without a high school diploma," Maciol said. "They can leave here with a GED. The goal is to have them find a job, settle in the community and be a positive member of the community. I think it's a very positive thing."

The GED classes were provided at no charge to the county, thanks to state and federal funding, and were taught by BOCES educators.

"My goal here, as the Sheriff, is certainly to create a safer county," Maciol said. "Part of that is implementing programs like this, so that the transition of these offenders from prison to living productive lives in their communities, we want to make that transition successful."

The Sheriff says ex-offenders with a high school diploma are less likely to return to jail, lessening the strain on county resources. They also have a higher chance of finding a job and continuing their education.