Inmate Completes High School Equivalency (HiSET)

by Malachy Flynn

 John Lanpher, an inmate at Hancock County Jail since July 2023, recently became the first Hancock County Jail resident in over two decades to receive his high school equivalency (HiSET) diploma.


“John and I started working together in February of 2022. Since then, he’s logged in 27 hours of class time and countless hours outside of class working on all the test prep materials that I would provide,” said Phil Wormuth, a Regional School Unit 24 Adult Education teacher who works with inmates at the jail. “John’s hard work paid off in October of this year when he successfully completed the last of five official HiSET tests.”


ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MALACHY FLYNN- John Lanpher is the first Hancock County Jail inmate in recent memory to receive his high school equivalency diploma. He was also inducted into the National Adult Education Honor Society.


Lanpher received his HiSET through RSU 24 Adult Education last Friday at the jail during a ceremony attended by his mother, members of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, jail administrative staff and RSU 24 Adult Education teachers and administrators. Upon receiving his diploma, he was also inducted into the National Adult Education Honor Society (NAEHS). Ander Thebaud, Adult Education director for RSU 24, presented Lanpher with his diploma and NAEHS certificate.


Wormuth thanked everyone who contributed to Lanpher’s education, including the Hancock County Commissioners, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, the Hancock County Jail administrators and volunteers and the RSU 24 Board and Superintendent Michael Eastman. Wormuth also noted that no other inmate under his tutelage has ever completed the HiSET.


“He is the first [jail] resident to do so in the 20-plus years I’ve been serving residents of the jail; quite an accomplishment!” Wormuth continued. “In recognition of the positive characteristics he displayed while enrolled in the RSU 24 Adult Education program — his dependability, attendance, cooperative attitude, effort and initiative — John was nominated and inducted into the National Adult Education Honor Society.”


Wormuth, who primarily teaches English and social studies in addition to HiSET prep classes at the RSU 24 Adult Education Learning Center, said that it is uncommon for inmates at the Hancock County Jail to earn a diploma or degree there. While many inmates participate in adult education opportunities offered by RSU 24, many are not at the facility long enough to complete a program.


“It’s hard in these county facilities. People usually get transferred out,” Wormuth explained. “People come and go a lot.”


Lanpher, who donned the blue cap and gown of RSU 24 for his graduation — complete with a gold cord from the NAEHS — thanked the RSU 24 Adult Education staff and Hancock County Jail administrators for helping  him reach his academic goals.


“It feels good. I’ve been lucky to have the various people I’ve had to work with — they’ve all been really supportive of me,” said Lanpher. “It feels good to have done something while I’m here.”


Equipped with a HiSET diploma, Lanpher hopes to continue his education at the postsecondary level. His goal is to work as a substance abuse recovery coach and to provide resources to those who are struggling with the same hardships he has faced. Currently serving a sentence for drug possession, Lanpher hopes to help others in a similar situation.


“Healthy Acadia is offering a recovery coach program. Maybe I can be helpful to somebody else who has been through the same things,” Lanpher continued.


“We’re really trying to facilitate a smooth transition into postsecondary education,” Wormuth explained. “Now we can focus on the next step.”


Outside of his academic pursuits, Lanpher discovered a passion for reading and art while serving his sentence. He has read 63 books while incarcerated and had 20 pieces of artwork featured at a show at the Cannery Gallery in South Penobscot.


Lanpher said he is currently unsure when he will be released, which could be in months or years, depending on how upcoming hearings go. Regardless of when he is released, Lanpher hopes to make the most of his time in the Hancock County Jail so he can leave the facility with a positive path forward.


“At least I’m making a good use of my time,” he said.

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