Report: New Mexico inmate graduation rates increase by 124%

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SANTA FE, N.M. — Donning their caps and gowns over their orange jumpsuits, 10 more New Mexico inmates earned their high school degrees Thursday.

“I was really excited, and now I know there are a lot of things that I can do to better myself,” said Patrick Burgess, an inmate.

This is the first time in years that the New Mexico Correction Department met the graduation goal set by the state’s Legislative Finance Committee.

Last year, there were only 82 inmates that got their GED. This year, that number is up to 198.

Burgess says this opens more doors for him once he is a free man.

“I had jobs and stuff before without my diploma, so I thought, I don’t need it if I can get a decent job,” he said. “But now that I have got it, I feel like I can better myself in a lot more ways.”

Now, Burgess is thinking about going to college or learning a new trade.

“I do have a welding certificate, so I thought about that, but there have been a few things over the last few years that I have thought about,” Burgess said. “There is a wind industry program in Tucumcari. That’s only a few miles from where I live, and that would be something interesting to get into.”

Burgess said he felt so accomplished when he earned his degree, he is now a tutor helping other inmates who are studying for their GED.