A former Texas County sheriff still has a connection with county jail inmates, but in a much different way than when he was in office.
Licking resident Dean Belshe, who spent two terms as county sheriff from 1997 through 2004, has for more than five years helped jail inmates earn General Education Development (GED) certificates. After his retirement from law enforcement, Belshe got involved doing GED courses with the Adult Learning Center in Houston, and started the jail GED program after being approached by his successor in the sheriff’s office, Carl Watson.
“It gives them a little self confidence and a sense of accomplishment,” Belshe said. “It gives them something that can help them when they get out.”
Belshe conducts classes two nights a week at the Texas County Justice Center that are sometimes attended by as many as 10 incarcerated “students.” He said any interested inmate can participate, and there are currently four enrolled.
“It’s a voluntary thing,” Belshe said. “But it gives them something good to do, and I’ve had a very good response to it.”
Along with GED training, participants in the jail program receive some counseling from Belshe.
“We talk a lot about their life experience and what could be done to make things better and make sure something bad isn’t going to happen again,” he said. “I feel from past experience that I know how to encourage people, and I sometimes know how to say the right things. I enjoy doing that.”
Current Sheriff James Sigman is a big fan of the program and the opportunity it presents to participants.
“I think the jail GED program is a great program,” Sigman said. “Many of the offenders we have in the Texas County jail are non-violent offenders. Giving them access to a GED program will hopefully open up opportunities for them once they are released.
“Dean Belshe is a great guy and enjoys teaching the program. It’s blessing to have someone like Dean, who is willing to come into a jail environment and teach these offenders and hopefully brighten their future.”
Belshe also does GED courses for the general public two nights a week in Licking that are open to anyone at no charge.
“Even if you already have a high school diploma, you can come out and refresh your knowledge,” he said. “Maybe you want to go to college, or do some sort of training, but it’s free and anybody can come.”
In addition to being busy four nights a week with GED classes, Belshe travels around doing presentations for the Missouri Archaeological Society, and is that organization’s contact in Texas County.
“When I was a kid, I thought I would end up in archaeology or astronomy,” he said. “My grandmother had books about those subjects, and I read every one of them. I still just love it.”
For more information about GED courses in Licking or to explore the possibility of having Belshe examine a potentially significant archaeological find or artifact, call him at 573-674-3264.