Inmates hope to use degrees to succeed after prison |

Inmates hope to use degrees to succeed after prison

Dave Frank
Appeal Staff Writer
Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Victor Lomeli, 36, looks from a visiting room window at the Nevada State Prison along with fellow inmates while waiting for their graduation ceremony to begin. Inmates graduated with a variety of degrees with the help of Western Nevada College and Carson Adult High School.

The hardest part of the class for Scott Schlingheyde was memorizing long sections of law.

“I’ve been on drugs all my life,” he said, “and, man, all this (stuff) is crazy.”

He passed the class, though, and went on to use it toward his degree.

He said he needs to be challenged.

On Tuesday, the Nevada State Prison inmate graduated with an associate degree in management, his third in the business field. He said he knows he’ll use his education when he gets out and thinks he might be able to get into business.

Schlingheyde is expected to get out in 2011, but he hopes he’s paroled before then. Five of the 13 men who got degrees this semester through Western Nevada College have already been released or transferred.

Bruce Barnes, a teacher at the prison, said he’s seen two former students recently.

“As ironic as it seems, I ran into them at AM-PM.”

Educating students with programs like these is good for both inmates and society, say advocates. Society gets inmates who are less likely to reoffend. Inmates get an education that makes them more prepared to find a job when they leave.

Rick Van Ausdal, the college’s prison education coordinator, said inmates will educate each other if schools don’t.

“They’re going to be your neighbor and my neighbor sitting next to us being better criminals and we don’t want that,” he said. “We want them to be better citizens.”

Michael Vader, who graduated with an associate degree of applied science in general business, took his first class a few years ago when he was at Ely State Prison. He chose computer repair because he liked the mechanics of it.

“I worked with cars a lot before I fell,” he said.

After the graduation ceremony, Vader had his picture taken by a studio photographer. The print-out superimposed an outdoor scene behind him.

Mark Trumble, in his speech on behalf of the class, talked about how important it is for inmates to use their education to help them move on and not to break the law again.

He said he was proud of his classmates. He said they have made mistakes, but that’s in the past.

Change your ways, he said. Don’t slip again.

As he spoke, Trumble held his hands behind his back and read off of a folded-up piece of paper. His denim prison shirt stuck out from under the robe. His graduation cap was pulled over his gray hair.

Both Trumble and Vader are serving life sentences but have the option of parole.

“I might be getting out,” Vader said. “In a couple years, I’m eligible hopefully.”

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at or 881-1212.