Ten Prisoners Complete Welding Program

Ten inmates at the Carroll County Prison have completed certifications in Welding & Joining Technology through West Georgia Technical College.

West Georgia Tech, Carroll County and the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board have partnered to offer a Welding & Joining Technology program at the Carroll County Prison facility on Horsley Mill Road in Carrollton. Last Friday, the first 10 inmates received their certificates from instructor Scott Eidson, and 10 more inmates will begin the program later this week.

Eidson started holding formalized classes in a portable classroom earlier this year, hoping his work with the inmates will “break the cycle” of recidivism, or repeated criminal behavior.

“When we started [the program], all the men would look down at their feet and wouldn’t look me in the eye,” Eidson said during the brief ceremony held in the prison’s visitation area. “Now, they have a new confidence and will look at you and talk to you and ask questions. … Before, they were beaten down, but now they have hope.”

The program taught students in the trades of gas metal arc welding, shielded metal arc wielding and flux core arc welding, with the 10 inmates earning certifications in the two latter skills.

Eidson said West Georgia Tech has even established a process in which inmates, once released from prison, will be allowed to “brush up” on their welding skills at the college before they enter the workforce.

“We are doing our best to line up employment for them in the geographic areas where they’re from, so we’re having to go outside our service area to find employers for these guys,” Eidson said. “This program will not be considered a true success until these men find work and become tax-paying citizens after they’re released.”

Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board is funding the 150-hour program through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Several pieces of equipment, as well as the portable classroom in which inmates work, were donated by the Technical College System of Georgia.

The first cohort of student inmates completed the program on time, with a second cohort starting the program this week. A third cohort, for which there is already a waiting list, will likely begin in January.

“It’s a proven fact that the more educated you are, the less likely you are to re-offend or commit a crime,” Carroll County Prison Warden Robert Jones said. “When you look at some of these guys’ backgrounds, you can see that they have never been given opportunities to really improve themselves. We know that if they do not come back, then we did something right.”

West Georgia Tech Executive Vice President of Economic Development and Campus Relations Laura Gammage said the program aligns with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s emphasis on inmate re-entry.

“Gov. Deal has made criminal justice reform one of his priorities, and re-entry programs that prepare inmates for life after incarceration are an important part of that,” Gammage said. “We want to make sure West Georgia Tech’s resources are being used to their full potential in support of this initiative.”

Gammage said WGTC modeled the Carroll County program after a successful pilot run in Troup County in which the entire class of six inmates successfully completed the program and became certified by the American Welding Society.

“We knew this was a successful model based on our outcomes in Troup County,” she said. “We are certainly excited to see it working in Carroll County and we look forward to expanding the program here.”

Eidson said the prison and WGTC are committed to continuing their efforts to offer education and training for prisoners and preparing them to productively settle back into society, and that a few companies have already expressed interest in hiring the trained inmates once they’re released.

For more information, please visit westgatech.edu.

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