First woman in six years earns GED in Norfolk City Jail

Cassandra Dickens

NORFOLK, Va. - Cassandra Dickens, 29, became the first woman in six years to earn her GED inside the Norfolk City Jail.

Dickens had a graduation ceremony Wednesday afternoon.

She's serving time in jail for shoplifting and said she plans to become a phlebotomist when she's out.

Norfolk City jail said that 90% of people in there are men and the last woman to earn their GED was in 2012.

"Being a woman incarcerated and still able to achieve these goals while being in here is amazing," Dickens told News 3's Aleah Hordges.

Dickens' teachers said 90% of the inmates are men and they guided Dickens every step of the way.

"They stayed on me about my homework and assignments, made sure I was always in class, made sure I understood the work that I was going," mentioned Dickens.

However, she said the hard part wasn't studying in a jail environment; instead, it was believing in herself.

"Me taking four years of high school and cramming it into nine months and actually achieving the goals that I came to achieve -  that was the hardest part for me," said Dickens.

The graduate said she wants to stay in Norfolk to further her education. She also wants to be back home with her three kids.

Dickens is expected to be released from jail on May 19.

She believes that society has a negative perception of inmates and many women get discouraged but hopes she won't be the last to earn her GED in jail.

"Just keep going, keep pushing, keep striving because if you give up and if you let up, then you're going to fail," Dickens added.