- Associated Press - Sunday, May 22, 2016

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - Logan Pettifield’s prospects were dim when he was booked into the Garland County Detention Center last August.

Serving a one-year sentence for a misdemeanor conviction, he thought the obligation would grind away slowly, but what was perceived as a burden became the prologue to his attendance at Thursday’s Oaklawn Foundation ceremony at National Park College, The Sentinel-Record (https://bit.ly/20aUbgq ).

The path he took to the $3,000 scholarship he received started at the detention center, where his stay didn’t begin auspiciously. Pettifield told the group that gathered at the detention center in October to honor its first GED graduates that he didn’t “see the light at the end of the tunnel” during his first few weeks in custody.

His perspective changed after enrolling in the NPC Adult Education classes that began last July. Since completing the program and being among the first to earn a GED at the detention center, he’s been released from custody, discharged from probation, completed a semester of college and found full-time employment. And he’s done it all while supporting his mom, Pamela, and younger sister, Stephanie.

The support team arrayed around him Thursday said Pettifield’s progression would have been hard pressed to develop amid a conventional correctional setting, where idle time gives errant behavior space and opportunity to fester. The detention center presents different opportunities, they said, ones that foster human development rather than stunting it.

“He wouldn’t have been able to do that in the old detention center,” said Bill Ritter, the director of Adult Education at NPC. “Because we have a new facility and we’re able to provide those programs, he’s better today because of it.”

Sheriff Mike McCormick said programs such as the GED course, Getting Ahead While Getting Out, Workforce Alliance for Growth in the Economy (WAGE) and parenting and anger management classes promote self-improvement, but seizing on it requires initiative.

“He’s set a good example of how a person can turn a negative situation into a positive one,” McCormick said. “I think we’re going to have a lot more Logan Pettifields come out of the detention center.”

Pettifield spent 82 days in custody, a commitment that was considerably shortened by his participation in the GED and inmate work programs. Working in the jail or finishing one of its personal improvement programs can reduce sentences by up to 10 days for every 30 days served.

Enrolling at NPC was a condition of Pettifield’s early release in November. The progress he showed, ultimately completing 12 hours while working full time, ended his probation in March, five months before the sentence he received in August was scheduled to conclude.

Lt. Belinda Cosgrove, the detention center’s programs director, said Pettifield hadn’t accessed his full potential when he arrived at the detention center.

“He didn’t need to totally become a new person,” she said. “He just needed to go a different direction. He’s an example of what can happen when people choose to take advantage of opportunities.”

The potential that’s now being realized was given agency at the detention center and has continued to grow at NPC, where graduates of its adult education program are entitled to two years of tuition at half price.

“At 26, he was able to accomplish something he didn’t accomplish in the community,” Cosgrove said. “What National Park is doing at the detention center, there’s not another college in any community in Arkansas doing what they’re doing. I appreciate them very much. This is what the community wanted when they funded this detention center.”

Pettifield said he plans to enroll at Henderson State University after completing an associate degree at NPC. A future that once ended where the walls of the detention center’s H block began is now unbounded, giving Pettifield a new lease on life he’s eager to explore.

“I feel great and very proud of myself,” he said. “I’ve never been able to say that before.”

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Information from: The Sentinel-Record, https://www.hotsr.com

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