Inmate Education

Ella Duncan, Director

The Director


Director Ella Arnsworth Duncan, M.Ed., began working and acquiring correctional experience in 1999 teaching “behind the walls” and later as a co-administrator of a Federal Youth Offender Education Grant in the North Carolina Division of Prisons. Dir. Duncan earned a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Business Administration from Shaw University and a dual Master’s of Arts Degree in Adult Education and Distance Learning from University of Phoenix. Dir. Duncan also successfully completed Certification of Training in Supporting Adults with Learning Disabilities, Basic Skills Resource Certification from Appalachian State University and Offender Employment Specialist Certification from the National Institute of Corrections Bureau of Prisons.

Dir. Duncan joined the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in September 2009 as Director Inmate Education.  With the collaboration of educational partner Houston Community College, the education program has continued to grow and evolve.  In order to meet the needs of the population that is being serviced by the education programs, an acknowledgement of the complexity of the students’ needs has prompted the development of self-paced programs for segregated offenders, adapting the coursework into modules based on the sentencing structure, and reinstating the Special Education program with HISD.  Additionally, the implementation of the Cognitive Behavior Program has produced very positive results within the education program for the offenders.

About Inmate Education


The Harris County Sheriff's Office, in conjunction with Houston Community College, provides several educational programs. These programs, academic and vocational, are listed below.


Academic Programs


  • GED – General Education Diploma General education course work
  • ESL- English Second Language
    Comprehensive study of the English language for Spanish speaking students
  • Cognitive Behavior
    In-depth study of the theories and principles of behavioral science and methods of modifying one’s behavior, learning critical thinking skills and parenting skills
  • Business Technology
    Principles of Accounting I, Technical Writing, Business Math and Intro to Keyboarding
  • Financial Literacy
    Financial literacy and principles of finance
  • Graphic Arts and Print Shop
    Introduction to Graphic Arts and Printing, Press Operations I, Digital Imaging I and Digital Printing
  • Logistics
    Safety and Accident Prevention, OSHA Regulations-Construction Industry, and Intro to Materials Handling
  • Workplace Literacy
    Business English, Business Writing, Communication Skills in the Workplace, Communications Improvement II, Job Search and Employment Skills and Occupational Math


Vocational Programs


The Inmate Education Program extends beyond the walls of the housing units at 701 and 1200 Jails to an off-site training facility entitled, the Crites Vocational Center located at 4627 Crites Street. Minimum risk inmates who are housed at 1307 Jail are offered an opportunity to learn a skill aligned with the current Workforce Industry. They are transported daily to and from the center to attend class. Visitors are welcome to come and tour the facility.


  • Air Conditioning & Refrigeration
    Fundamentals of Electricity I, Air Conditioning Control Principles, and Refrigeration Principles
  • Auto Paint & Body
    Basic Refinishing, Auto Body Repair & Repainting, Basic Metal Repair
  • Auto Mechanic
    Intro to Automotive Technology, Automotive Electrical Systems, Automotive Brake Systems
  • Building Maintenance
    Building Maintenance Skills, Building Maintenance I and Interior Maintenance
  • Culinary Arts
    Basic Food Preparation, Safety and Sanitation, Fundamentals of Baking
  • Tailoring/Sewing
    Ready to Wear Construction, Basic Men’s Tailoring and Basic Women’s Tailoring
  • Welding
    Welding Fundamentals, Intro to Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), Intro to Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW)
  • Woodworking
    Exterior Maintenance, Intro to Carpentry, Cabinet Making I


The Harris County Sheriff’s Office was the first jail in the country to become certified in 2004 by the Correctional Education Association (CEA), a national correctional organization that has set industry standards for education in correctional institutions.

You learn how to be disciplined with this program. I improved my attitude through this program. I used to have a bad attitude. This program changed that. The instructors don't look at you as an inmate. They look at you as a student. The instructors get to know the inmates as people. They treat you with respect. The other day I learned my dad was rushed to the hospital. Mr. Leon [instructor] and Ms. Duncan [program director] listened to me and talked with me and gave me words of encouragement.


Inmate Education Program

This class was a true blessing to me. I am learning something new every day. I'm learning things people in the free world can't learn without paying for it. I am trying to learn something to keep me from coming back here. I appreciate the opportunity his program has given me.


Inmate Education Program

When I came here all the hope was replenished. The instructors and deputies treat you with total respect. The program teaches you responsibility and provides you with a trade you can use when you get out. This is a fantastic program. I have seen people change when they come here.


Inmate Education Program

Students made the trailers in the welding shop and painted and added the artwork in the paint/body shop.


Student working on a cabinet.

Printing Presses

A student spray painting a fender in the paint and body shop. Students with no experience will be able to knock out dents, sand smooth, and paint a fender in two weeks.

Student in the welding shop.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Class



The Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) received re-accreditation through 2020 from the Correctional Education Association (CEA) at their annual conference. The conference was held in San Antonio July 30th - August 2nd. The HCSO had to meet 61 standards and is one of a few county jails to receive this accreditation in the nation. The HCSO is larger than most of the prisons seeking accreditation.

Pictured to the right is HCSO Inmate Education Director Ella Duncan and Robert Sims, the Houston Community College Director of the Correctional Education Program. They attended the conference and accepted the accreditation.

Schedule of Classes

701 San Jacinto Street Jail Classes
  • Print Shop AM
  • Print Shop PM
  • Graphic Arts AM
  • Graphic Arts PM
  • Cognitive Behavior AM
  • Warehouse/Logistics AM
  • Warehouse/Logistics PM
  • Construction & Safety AM
  • Basic Computer AM
  • ESL PM
  • Workplace Literacy PM
  • Workplace Literacy PM2
  • GED PM
1200 Baker Street Jail Classes for Males
  • Business Tech
  • Cognitive Behavior
  • Workplace Literacy
  • Finance
  • GED AM
  • GED PM
  • GED PM
  • ESL
  • HISD
1200 Baker Street Jail Classes for Females
  • Workplace Literacy
  • Business Technology
  • Basic Tailoring
  • Commercial Sewing
  • GED PM
1307 Baker Street Jail Classes for Males & Females
  • Auto Mechanic
  • Auto Paint and Body
  • Basic Construction & Cabinet
  • Building Maintenance
  • Culinary Arts
  • Welding
  • Cognitive Behavior

Creative Writing Program for Veterans


A creative writing class for veterans in the Reentry program started on Monday, October 23, 2017. The program is being provided by Inprint, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring readers and writers. The program is spearheaded by Kaj Tanaka, a PhD fiction graduate student at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program (UH CWP) who has extensive experience teaching writing classes in prisons. His stories and essays have appeared in The Rumpus, Electric Literature, The Master's Review, New South, Big Lucks, and Midwestern Gothic. He is the nonfiction editor at Bull Magazine. Kaj will also serve as workshop instructor. The class will focus on writing poetry and at the end of the class, a compilation of the students' poetry will printed and distributed to each of the veterans in the program. The students will be asked to design the cover for the book.

Kaj Tanaka, PhD Fiction graduate student, teaching his first creative class to veterans in the Reentry Stars and Strips Program on Monday, October 23, 2017. (Photo by Jake Smith, Harris County Sheriff's Office Media Relations)

Contact Us About Our Inmate Education Program

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Ella A. Duncan, M.Ed.

Director Inmate Education

Bureau of Mental Health and Jail Diversion