Recidivism of justice involved individuals is a concern not only in federal and state prisons, but also in local county jails, where according to a recent Department of Corrections study, recidivism is higher among prisoners released from jails than prisons. By providing programing for mental health, substance abuse, education and job skill training, the recidivism rate can be reduced to as low as 15%. Rural counties, such as Gibson and Dyer, often have additional challenges related to resources and employment opportunities which contribute to higher recidivism rates.
Members of the Northwest TN Workforce Board (NWTNWB), including representatives of employers, have discussed the need to provide services to justice involved individuals. But there is always the looming question, “will employers hire them?” Based on comments from Board members and success of other re-entry programs, the answer is “yes, on a case by case basis”. Employers will consider hiring justice involved individuals who have shown personal improvement while incarcerated or since release.
The NWTNWB in Northwest TN Workforce Area has developed a partnership with the Gibson, Dyer, and Henry Counties' Sheriff’s Offices to establish an occupational skills training program for jail inmates who are nearing release. The training program will be supported by other services offered through the American Job Center (AJC). Re-entry Advanced Manufacturing Program (RAMP) will provide instruction in the Manufacturing Skills Standard Council (MSSC) Certified Production Technician (CPT) program to incarcerated individuals onsite at the jail. The credentials, currently recognized by local employers, include four (4) nationally recognized certifications – Safety, Quality, Manufacturing Processes and Maintenance Awareness. The training will be provided by the TN College of Applied Technology (TCAT) at Jackson and Dyersburg State Community College (DSCC), who will award credit toward their respective advanced manufacturing programs and will accept the credit of the other program for future training. TCAT Jackson will award up to 432 clock hours of credit, DSCC up to 12 college credits for those completing the entire program. Interim certifications will be issued for partial completion. Both colleges have experience offering the program curriculum. In addition to increasing the employability/occupational skills of the inmates, the program supports the goals of the Governor’s Drive to 55.
Inmates will be identified and referred to the program by the Sheriff’s Offices. Ideal candidates will have a desire to train and work in manufacturing, have a functional reading level of 6th grade or above, be within 6 months of release date and have a record that does not include violent crimes. Referrals will be expected to have already received any necessary mental health and/or substance abuse services needed before referral to the program. The pilot program proposes to serve 80 inmates between both jails. Gibson County and Henry County initially plan to target male inmates, while Dyer County will focus on female inmates. Each may change their focus depending on the number of candidates available. The goals of the program are to increase employment opportunities and lower recidivism rates, by increasing occupational skills and developing a career pathway to manufacturing.