Inmates get welding certification through Southern Crescent Tech

Student inmates show off their newly obtained welding certification alongside representatives from Southern Crescent Technical College, Spalding County Correctional Institute and the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board. (Special Photo: Southern Crescent Technical College)

Southern Crescent Technical College, Spalding County and the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board have partnered to offer a welding and joining technology certification program at the Spalding County Correctional Institute facility in Griffin. On July 13, the first seven inmates received their basic welding techniques certification at a graduation ceremony with their family and loved ones in attendance.

Through the program, students received 150 hours of training in the trades of gas metal arc welding and shielded metal arc welding, Southern Crescent Technical College said. Once completed, inmates receive a certification that will go with them when they leave prison.

SCTC instructor Chris Patterson started holding formalized classes in a portable classroom last fall, hoping his work with the inmates would break the cycle of recidivism, or repeated criminal behavior.

“We are doing our best to change the course of the future for these students. Not only will successful employment make a lasting impact on the student, we will see this carry over into their families and communities as well. It’s a great situation for all parties involved,” Patterson said.

Spalding County Correctional Institute Prison Warden Carl Humphrey said, “We have worked extremely hard to get this program up and running to be able to provide something more for these men. We established a make-it-happen team and our success is evident with these graduates.”

The Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board is funding the 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.

“It’s a proven fact that the more educated you are, the less likely you are to re-offend or commit a crime,” Humphrey 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.”

SCTC’s Executive Vice President of Economic Development Mark Andrews 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,” Andrews said. “We want to make sure Southern Crescent Technical College’s resources are being used to their full potential in support of this initiative.”

Andrews said SCTC modeled the program after other successful programs throughout the state adding, “this program has been a great success and we are already making plans to begin with our next group of students.”

Humphrey said the prison and SCTC are committed to continuing their efforts to offer education and training for prisoners and preparing them to productively settle back into society.

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