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updated: 1/14/2014 11:58 AM

Lake County jail becomes GED testing site to help inmates earn a diploma

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To make it easier for Lake County jail inmates to earn an educational diploma, the jail has been named as a registered general education development (GED) testing site by the College of Lake County.

The designation as a test administration site means inmates can receive weekly GED testing, rather than on CLC's schedule of every eight weeks, said Jennifer Witherspoon, the director of Diversion Programming for the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

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"The higher the level of education people receive, the more people get jobs, which leads to less crime," Witherspoon said.

A GED is an educational degree for people who, for whatever reason, did not finish high school and earn a diploma.

Inmates interested in obtaining a GED perform course work at their own pace with help from instructors from CLC's Adult Education Department and volunteer tutors, Witherspoon said. After completing the course work, inmates found it was difficult to earn their diploma because they had to take four tests separated by eight weeks, she explained.

What often happens is an inmate will take one or two of the GED tests, but then be released from jail or transferred to the Illinois Department of Corrections before completing the remaining tests, Witherspoon said.

Under the new jail program, inmates will be able to take a GED test once a week, reducing the time to earn their diploma, she said.

Sgt. Sara Balmes said the jail has been participating in the GED program with CLC for nearly 30 years, and that it has a 93 percent pass rate for the four exams.

Despite the time issues with the program, an average of 69 inmates have earned their diplomas annually in the last three years, Balmes said. Eighty-eight inmates graduated with their GED in 2013, she added.

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