ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTW) — The Robeson County Sheriff’s Office has partnered with Robeson Community College’s Career Readiness Division to begin classroom instruction to qualified inmates in an effort to assist them with receiving their High School Equivalency Diploma or GED.

“To me that is somebody’s family member, somebody’s dad, somebody’s mom sitting over there in that cell and to offer them the opportunity to get an education and to help with their self-esteem rather than be ridiculed daily for what they may have done or their wrong choices that they made, I think they are trying to make a difference jut as we are for them,” Sheriff Wilkins says.

“I don’t think of them as inmates. I’m an instructor which is a teacher. To me they are students and my job is to teach,” Arthur Hall says.

Arthur Hall is an instructor with Robeson Community College and says this partnership with RCSO allows them to turn inmates into students. From 9am-4pm, Hall covers subjects like math, science, how to make resumes and other work skills.

Inmate Jonathan Allen spoke to News13 Thursday about his experience with the program so far. Allen has been incarcerated at the Robeson County Detention for the past 2 years.

“I was actually surprised, you know because it’s very rare that we get the opportunity to try to add value to our lives instead of just sitting around in solitary for a long time. So, I was very pleased,” Allen said. “It changes your mindset and your perspective because you know someone believes in you first and foremost and it kind of gives you a little bit more confidence and it’s good to know that the community is behind you and programs like this are becoming available to us,” Allen continued.

“Our inmates here are awaiting trial. Some have been here for weeks, months, and even years. So what we are trying to do here are trying to use that time rather than them sitting idle to try to work through our community college system to get them their GED or High School equivalency,” Sheriff Wilkins says.

“The funding for CCR classes at the jail is provided through a Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Title II Block Grant and through state-supported FTE (full-time equivalent). Testing is not provided through the grant, but Robeson County Sherriff Burnis Wilkins has agreed to cover the costs associated with the HiSet tests for the inmates,” said Cheryl Hemric, RCC spokesperson.