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Post Date:10/16/2018
Contact: AnnMarie Breen
Public Information Specialist
Desk: (919) 560-0826
Mobile: (919) 748-1475


Durham, N.C. –  The Durham County Detention Center has received approval from The North Carolina Community College System to become a certified testing site for the High School Equivalency Test or HiSET. This certification will allow detainees to receive their equivalency diplomas while still detained.

Through the Sheriff’s Office partnership with the Durham Literacy Center, detainees can enroll in classes to prepare for the HiSET, and participate in 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, helps to develop opportunities for detainees to contribute positively to the community upon release.

Literacy Center staff teach the high school equivalency classes twice a week with new sessions beginning every 2 months. In the past, those completing the class received a referral to register to take final testing at Durham Technical Community College after their release. This delay between class participation and testing resulted in some not receiving their diplomas. Now that the detention center is a certified testing site, there will no longer be a time gap allowing more people to graduate. 

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 have posted better scores on pre and post program standardized tests since the start. Once completed, an interest in other services offered including, the Local Re-entry Program and Project BUILD, a gang intervention program has increased as well. Based on feedback, students overwhelmingly agreed that enrollment helped them develop future goals and a plan to reach them.  Here are a few reactions from post class surveys:

  • "I believe if taken seriously, this class will and can help people trying to move forward in life.  I would suggest the class for somebody trying to better themselves.  Thanks for the opportunity."
  • "I really appreciate this class, it helped me realize my strengths."
  • "This class definitely gave me hope!"
  • "This class helped me improve on everyday skills I didn't know I had.  Nobody in your class can say that they don't know what to do when they get out."
  • "This class has given me some knowledge that would help me out in the community to be a good citizen."

With such positive past results the Sheriff’s Office requested and received $100,000 to renew the contract with the Durham Literacy Center to fund the equivalency and life skills programs. The Board of County Commissioners approved the funding during the recent budget process, allowing the Sheriff’s Office and the Durham Literacy Center to continue to provide needed tools for the men and women held in the detention center to make a positive change in their lives



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