One of the ways in which the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department helps those in our care and custody to return to society as people more capable of caring for themselves and their families is by providing programming that is designed to improve and enhance their academic skills. Among the many courses, trainings and programs offered to the incarcerated population by the Department, one of the most critical is the High School Equivalency Test or the HiSET, which allows students to earn their high school equivalency diploma upon successful completion.
The HiSET preparatory class is attended voluntarily by inmates and detainees who study lessons and take part in a series of pre-tests that bring them into readiness to take the formal examination. The class is offered on an on-going basis, and the HiSET test is given multiple times per-year at the House of Correction.
“The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department is its own HiSET test center and our staff works diligently to provide the academic support for our students to succeed,” said Jim Dizio Director of Education. The HiSET Preparation class is taught by instructor Joel Hurwitz and focuses on increasing students’ knowledge in mathematics, science, social studies, reading and writing.
“This class prepares our students for the HiSET examination and, hopefully, for moving on with their careers in terms of the kinds of skills and knowledge we teach,” said Hurwitz. “It is our hope that when they leave here, they will re-integrate successfully back into the community and that they will have the skills to move into a college-level class or training program to continue furthering themselves. We work on making sure that our students can write clear sentences, understand geometry, algebraic concept, history, civics and more.”
Speaking about the significance of obtaining a high school equivalency diploma while incarcerated, Dizio said, “High school credentials have really become the minimum that someone needs for any sort of post-secondary training or certificate programs. So much of what lies ahead of our students falls back on them completing credentials like the HiSET examination.”
The overarching goal for the Department in providing not only academic instruction, but also vocational training, and addiction recovery and mental health services, among others is, ultimately, to reduce recidivism. The aim is to prepare incarcerated individuals to leave with the skills and qualifications necessary to rejoin their communities and the workforce as seamlessly and successfully as is possible.
“I think as much as we can, we really need to constantly make a point to the students here that education – academic and vocational – are critically important,” said Dizio. “We encourage them here to succeed and that is very powerful. We have the ability to bring about some serious change that can help them to have better lives.”