SALT LAKE CITY — Inmates at Utah's prisons and jails earned 853 high school diplomas and 330 GEDs in 2001, according to a report released Wednesday by the Utah legislative auditor general.

In the report, auditors recommend that the state find a more equitable way to distribute funds to school districts that provide inmate high school education. A total of $5.4 million was spent on inmate education in 2011, the report states, with the two school districts — Canyons and South Sanpete — that provide services to Utah's state prisons receiving more than twice as much money per student compared to districts with only jail programs.

The report also finds that funds for prison programs are distributed unfairly between Canyons and South Sanpete school districts. According to the audit, Corrections Education funds are distributed based on the overall prison population instead of the number of students enrolled.

In all, the report states that 21 school districts provided educational services to 5,268 students in 23 jails and two state prisons.

The auditors also recommended that inmate education programs give priority to students who are likely to leave correctional facilities within five years to increase their likelihood of employment upon release. The report found that the impact on inmate education on employment is unclear and further evaluation is needed.

The number of enrolled students in Utah's prisons and jails has decreased each year since 2009, the report states. Educational services for inmates are administered and funded through the Utah State Office of Education's Adult Education programs, with prison services being supplemented with Corrections Education funds.

Benjamin Wood