DOC plans to create education, training opportunities for inmates

Published: Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
While PRIDE officials develop plans to expand and add, at most, several dozen new workers, Department of Corrections Secretary James McDonough, a PRIDE board member by law, is working on ways to keep thousands of inmates busy while learning vocational skills.
"The general view in Florida is that there is a crying need for construction workers," McDonough said. "I am putting out over 30,000 inmates a year into society. Many would be fine employees if we can get them vocational training and certification verifying they are qualified to work in a construction trade."
McDonough said he will soon be ready to unveil a public-private partnership plan that will create a way for inmates to learn construction job skills in prison and be ready to go to work upon release.
"If we do this, it won't cost very much," McDonough said. "The ideal outcome is that some part of industry determines they have a need and decide to make an up-front investment. The construction (industry) people have been in my office and I think we can make this work."
McDonough also said he has organized a transition team to help inmates learn to succeed outside of prison and vocational training is one of about five areas that need to be addressed to help inmates succeed.
Because the majority of inmates arrive in prison with the equivalent of a sixth-grade education, McDonough wants them to earn a GED. Also, McDonough, former head of Florida's drug office for nearly nine years, said 60 to 80 percent of inmates have substance-abuse problems that will take back over their lives if not addressed before they are released.
Creating opportunities for inmates to develop or reinforce spiritual beliefs and developing life skills - like how to balance a budget and keep track of a Social Security card - are areas McDonough said need to be addressed to increase the likelihood inmates will succeed in the free world.
"If they get those five things, I am virtually certain I can knock a big hole in the recidivism rate," McDonough said. "If we cut recidivism of the 30,000 people released each year by 10 percent, that would be 3,000 people a year. That's significant and something we ought to be doing."

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