InmateClass

Graduating inmates at Trousdale Turner listen to one of the chaplains speak during a June ceremony at the Hartsville prison.

CoreCivic’s Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville celebrated 16 student-inmates who graduated with either a high school equivalency (HSE) diploma or industry recognized certificate (IRC) this June.

Eight graduates were career technical education students and earned IRCs in either masonry or construction core safety, which trains students in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.

Joseph Brewer was one of eight student-inmates to graduate with an HSE diploma at Trousdale. Brewer earned his diploma after five months of dedication to his schoolwork.

“I have always wanted to have an education. Now that I have my [HSE], I can go to college like I have always wanted to do,” Brewer said. “Earning my diploma motivates me because it tells me that I can do anything if I put my mind to it.”

After some reflection, Brewer shared a few of his goals following incarceration.

“I hope to go to college and complete my parole. I also want to speak to other troubled teens to let them know that life can be way better than what is now [for them] — they just have to put their minds to becoming a better person.”

Brewer encouraged inmates who may be considering correctional education enrollment.

“Just because you are incarcerated doesn’t mean you get any less of an education than anyone else. Put your mind to it and better yourself for yourself. Don’t ever give up on yourself. Once you get your education, don’t stop there — always go beyond your expectations.”

While 2020 hindered programming efforts in correctional facilities nationwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trousdale still managed to help 45 student-inmates earn an HSE or IRC last year. This year, education staff at Trousdale is working diligently to help even more student-inmates earn an HSE, IRC or both.

Trousdale’s Educational Counselor Dr. Monica Burns-Dunnagan addressed the graduates to share how proud she — and the facility’s education department — was to commemorate the June graduation milestone.

“Each of you demonstrate the ability to overcome difficult challenges and persevere through adversity while changing the way you process new information both cognitively and behaviorally. I have no doubt that once you return to society, you will beat recidivism and become enormous mentors for your community,” Dr. Burns-Dunnagan said.

Inmates who enroll in correctional education can increase their chances of securing gainful employment following release, and decrease their chances of recidivism by 43% according to research.

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