James B. Hunt, Jr., Governor
Joe Hamilton, Acting Secretary
Patty McQuillan, Director of Public Information (919) 733-4926

APRIL 19, 1999

Educational programs offer inmates a chance to turn their lives around

Instead of traditional caps and gowns, the graduates wore white t-shirts and tan pants. And even though their friends and family members were not allowed to attend the ceremony for security reasons, the students who received their diplomas in the prison dining hall were just as proud of their accomplishments as any high school or college student who has ever walked across a stage to the tune of "Pomp and Circumstance."

Last year alone, more than 3,000 inmates received diplomas and certificates after successfully completing education and vocation programs in prisons across the state. Attending classes five days a week, the inmates study everything from basic reading and writing skills to computer repair and welding.

"Education is the key to helping inmates turn their lives around," said Acting Correction Secretary Joe Hamilton. "Lack of education is the reason why many of these inmates are in prison in the first place. Studies show that inmates who receive an education are more likely to find a job once they are released, lowering their chances of ever returning to prison again."

Working in conjunction with the state’s community college system, the N.C. Department of Correction offered more than 50 full time educational programs and courses to inmates last year with an average monthly enrollment of more than 3,500 students.

Last year, 2,188 prisoners passed the high school equivalency exam and another 1,135 completed education and vocation classes to earn certificates and diplomas.

Most of the state’s 84 prisons offer educational programs for inmates. Inmates who do not have a high school diploma may participate in Adult Basic Education classes to develop the basic skills needed to pass the GED test. Inmates who have completed the GED or who possess a high school diploma may be considered for participation in several degree programs. While other inmates choose to participate in the wide variety of vocational programs offered in the prisons including culinary arts, electrical engineering, auto mechanics and welding.

Hamilton said as the prison population continues to rise, educational programs will play an increasingly vital role in the welfare of our state.

"Over the past 10 years, the prison population has nearly doubled," he said. "We can’t just keep building more prisons. Education is the best way to keep people out of prison."

More information on prison education services can be found in the 1998 Education Services Annual Report located on the Department of Correction’s web page at

NC DOC Homepage
E-mail NC DOC