New state apprenticeship program hopes to help inmates find jobs with in-prison training

03/02/2017 02:31 PM

FRANKFORT — The state’s labor and justice cabinets are teaming up for a new apprenticeship initiative that looks to put inmates on career paths and cut Kentucky’s recidivism rate.

Justice to Journeyman, announced at a Capitol news conference Thursday, will connect 105 inmates at three prisons and four juvenile detention facilities with various skills-training programs.

Journeyman certificates require 2,000 to 8,000 training hours and 144 hours of classroom work, which inmates will begin behind bars as part of the program in hopes that they will complete it through employers once released.

So far Lexington-based electrical contractor Amteck, United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters & Service Technicians Local 502 and the Associated Builders & Contractors Chapter of Indiana/Kentucky have signed on as participants, according to a news release from the Governor’s Office.

Gov. Matt Bevin said Thursday’s announcement is the latest effort to make Kentucky a national leader in criminal justice reform.

“We will ultimately have many of these, and we will have bigger versions of them even in the very facilities that we mentioned,” said Bevin, who noted that about 95 percent of Kentucky’s prison population will re-enter society.

The prisons chosen for the Justice to Journeyman pilot are Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women, which will be training prisoners in electrical work; Northpoint Training Center, which will provide welding training; and Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex, which will be training prisoners in carpentry.

Juvenile justice centers participating in the pilot are Northern Kentucky Youth Development Center, which will provide masonry and telecommunications training; Adair Youth Development Center, which will handle telecommunications and building maintenance repair; Lake Cumberland Youth Development Center, which will provide welding and building maintenance training; and Mayfield Youth Development Center, which will teach juvenile offenders building maintenance.

Labor Cabinet Secretary Derrick Ramsey said apprenticeship programs are nothing new for Kentucky inmates.

“What we’re doing now is just focusing in so that after they’re released, they’ve done some of the classwork as an inmate then when they come outside, we’re going to put them to work,” said Ramsey, who stopped short of guaranteeing employment for those who complete the program.

“And what this does once you have that combination, they become journeymen and journeywomen. That certificate will allow you to work anywhere around the country.”

Corey Bard, chief financial officer of Amteck, said his company and others like it would benefit from an influx of skilled workers.

He called a skilled workforce “one of the biggest needs” of the state’s construction sector.

“The lack of skilled labor causes many constraints to the construction industry with safety issues, productivity issues, just being able to bring in people out of state, bringing in workers out of state and even turning down great work opportunities because of that lack of skilled labor,” Bard said.

John Tilley, secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, said the new initiative would help keep inmates from re-offending. He lamented that the state has done a poor job connecting inmates with employers.

“Is this a public safety piece? In all respects it is a public safety piece,” Tilley said. “The very core of reducing recidivism means that you’ll have less crime, less victims, less strain on communities and less strain on an already strapped and overly strained criminal justice system.”

Tilley said inmates would be selected for the program by their facilities based on behavior and aptitude.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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