Ready for a New Start Over 100 Offenders Transition From Jail to the Job Market With Vocational Training

Ready for a New Start? Over 100 Offenders Transition From Jail to the Job Market With Vocational Training

When hundreds of offenders are released from jail after finishing courses in the Mississippi Department of Corrections Vocational Village programs, they are prepared to be welders, electricians, construction workers, and other skilled laborers.

The most recent class of 102 offenders finished their curriculum, and 94 of them graduated from the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) in Rankin County. Auto repair, building trades, metalworking, welding, ductwork, horticulture and landscape design, small engine repair, fiber optics, computer and coding classes, culinary arts, electrical, carpentry, and other skills are taught.

In May 2023, MDOC announced the centralized group of programs to “streamline the process for inmates, especially those who are eligible for parole, as well as for instructors teaching multiple classes across the vocational spectrum,” according to Commissioner Burl Cain.

Reuben Mayes, 31, who obtained two certificates, was one of the first offenders to begin the program. He is set to be released on parole in early June and hopes to pursue a career in construction or landscaping. His favorite course included using a forklift.

“This program gave us life. People can look at us and say, “They did something in there.” They did not go to prison to squander time. “They’re coming home as better people,” Mayes stated. “We can accomplish more. We did this, and we can do anything. I’m excited to demonstrate to my family and community that I’m a better person.”

Desmond Howard, 32, a convict who spoke at the last graduation, is eligible for parole in 2025. He advised the graduates to make full use of their accomplishments. He aspires to pursue a career in communications technology.

“Don’t keep these credentials in a drawer somewhere. Use them. When we walk out, everyone will be gazing at us, wondering what we’re going to do. The credentials we received on May 3 are part of our future,” Howard explained. “Just because our jerseys read ‘MDOC felon,’ does not define who we are. We’re better than what’s printed on our shirts. Be proud of what you have accomplished. Be happy with the classes you’ve taken and go on.”

Vocational Village organizes a variety of vocations and provides study materials and equipment for hands-on learning. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and the National Center for Construction Education and Research, the national standard for training construction professionals, have sanctioned and accredited vocational instruction through MDOC-formed collaborations.

According to Program Director Christie Scott, the Vocational Village began with four courses and has now added five more, with another new one beginning soon, for a total of ten. Scott stated that the most recent graduate group, combined with a January graduation, includes 17 inmates who completed the business technology class, four in carpentry, 156 in communications technology, 354 in NCCER Core, 253 in forklift, 13 in electrical, 32 in heavy equipment operations, and 44 in the ICEV computer-based certification program.

CMCF Superintendent John Hunt informed the May 3 graduates that other convicts are observing the program participants, and their eagerness to learn might be contagious. “Our primary goal is to get inmates qualified so they can go out and work. You’re setting the stage. “Other inmates see you doing this and want some of it as well,” Hunt said. “I enjoy seeing your work. There is so much ability sitting right here, and you need to get out there. “Just because you went to prison does not mean that your life is over.”

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