Inmate training program may have promise

We like what we’ve seen from a Michigan Department of Corrections program that trains qualified inmates for specific jobs once they are released on parole.

Corrections has set up a pair of so-called vocational villages in the past two years — the first at the prison in Ionia and the latest, last year, in the Parnall Correctional Facility near Jackson — where hundreds of inmates are learning everything from computerized machinery to masonry, robotics, truck driving and fork lift operation.

The idea, department Director Heidi Washington told The Associated Press, is to reduce the number of prisoners returning to confinement while preparing new workers with needed skills.

“We are training these guys in jobs that are in demand, that are going unfilled in this state, and jobs that exist in the communities they’re going back to,” Washington said.

According to AP, Michigan releases 10,000 prisoners each year, but repeat offenders make up nearly 40 percent of those entering the system. Inmates who receive educational training are 43 percent less likely to reoffend than those who don’t, according to a 2013 Rand Corp. study. Officials believe the opportunities for inmate employment are greater now because of Michigan’s shortages in skilled trades.

This program is in its infancy. Certainly, the way forward will include speed bumps and other unexpected hurdles, political and otherwise. All of that said, its first steps have been positive and in the right direction. We plan to monitor its progress and report to readers.

— The Mining Journal, Marquette