MDOC starts new program to help inmates enter the workforce after being incarcerated

Published: May. 9, 2023 at 7:27 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - New workforce opportunities are opening up for inmates now behind bars in the state, and Mississippi Department of Corrections officials say it’s not just going to help them. It could benefit you at home.

At Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, you won’t just find men sitting behind bars. Instead, you’ll find inmates who are ready to learn.

“We train our inmates to go back out and to be successful,” MDOC Statewide Director George King said.

So how is that happening? MDOC opened a new “Vocational Village” inside of CMCF that puts inmates through programs that teach them valuable workforce skills.

“Being incarcerated, you want to find something to occupy your time. Something that’s definitely positive because there’s plenty of negative things you can get into around here. So when C-tech class comes open, and they said, ‘Hey, we got chances for people to come in and be instructors and stuff like that. This is what your potential making it could be when you get home. I said sign me up,’” current CMCF inmate and program instructor Anthony Bunch explained.

Coding, laying fiber optic cables, construction, and culinary skills are just some of the classes inmates can sign up for. Those are classes MDOC Commissioner Burl Cain says could benefit you at home.

“We have a problem with broadband Mississippi, so we have to have some people who can install, and that’s a lot of jobs in a lot of places all over Mississippi, and so that’s what we’re training them to do,” Commissioner Cain said.

“When you talk about building back up, there was a tornado that tore all those homes down, right? So you will need a carpenter, you’re gonna need a brick mason, you’re gonna need somebody to drive forklifts. And so, all of our classes are catered to the things that our community is going to need,” King explained.

Along with ensuring inmates are employed, others say it could improve safety for the future.

“If we can make sure they’re in a job, that they can keep the job, that they can create a career out of it. It’s a net-net game for the state of Mississippi because it improves our labor force but it also ensures that public safety is at the top of our list,” Bradley Lum, MDOC Deputy Commissioner of Workforce Development, said.

“It gives me more of a foundation to stand on for when I get home. I can say I don’t have to go back to this type of lifestyle anymore. I can do this,” Bunch explained.

While the Vocational Village is located at CMCF, these programs will expand into other prisons as well.

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