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Post Date:01/31/2019 4:30 PM

January 30, 2019


Contact: AnnMarie Breen
Senior Public Information Officer                                                                                                                         
Desk: 919-560-0826
Mobile: 919-748-1475 



 In October of 2018, the Durham County Detention Center received approval from The North Carolina Community College System to become a certified testing site for the High School Equivalency Test or HiSET.  Durham Technical Community College facilitated the detention center in achieving the certification which allows inmates to receive their equivalency diplomas while still detained.

Through the Sheriff’s Office partnership with the Durham Literacy Center, inmates who enroll in classes to prepare for the HiSET now earn their diploma while detained or incarcerated. This opens up opportunities for them to contribute positively to the community upon release.  Giving graduates the credentials, they need to enroll in college programs and apply for jobs through our partnership with the Local Re-Entry Council. 

Literacy Center staff teach the high school equivalency classes twice a week with new sessions beginning every two months. Before the detention center became a certified site, those completing the class received a referral to register to take their final testing at Durham Technical Community College after their release. This delay between class participation and testing resulted in the loss of memory of material learned or inability to register for testing.  Now that the detention center offers the equivalency test, there will no longer be a time gap allowing more people to graduate. 

In addition to the HiSET prep classes, the Durham Literacy Center also offers a Job/Life Skills program.  All the classes are voluntary and are open to anyone. Earning a diploma and learning life skills like goal setting, resume development and knowledge of resources for justice-involved people, gives those completing one or both programs the tools they need to succeed upon release.

In the fourth year of the partnership with the Durham Literacy Center, student enrollment in both programs continued to climb. At any given time, 36 students can enroll for HiSET prep classes. The maximum enrollment in Lifeskills is 32. Despite the volatility and constant movement of the detainee population, enrollment caps were met or exceeded in three out of the 12 months in 2018. It is believed that enrollment numbers continued to grow throughout the year because: 

  • of the longevity of the program
  • increased awareness among DCDF staff and detainees about offerings in the detention center
  • expansion of the program to students of all ages
  • increased student motivation because of the potential to take HiSET tests in the facility
  • an enrollment process that allows as many students as possible to benefit from the services offered. 

Since the program’s inception in 2014, 310 students have utilized the classes with 65 currently registered in one or both programs, an increase of 66 percent over 4 years. Enrollees in the equivalency classes continue to post better scores on pre and post-program standardized tests every year. 

Beginning in November 2018, testing was offered on a monthly basis for detainees enrolled in High School Equivalency programs at DCDF.  You can see their success in the statistics below. 

  • 12 students passed 36 HiSET subtests
  • The passing rate was 80%, 20% higher than the national average passing rate of 60%
    6 students passed all the tests they took
  • 6 students scored “college ready” in at least one subject, 11 additional students were only 1 or 2 points away from scoring in the “college ready” range
  • The Durham County Sheriff's Office and the Durham Literacy Center look forward to another year of educational growth. 
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