Our cousins at StateImpact Indiana take a look at a new program providing vocational skills to prisoners. 30 inmates may be starting jobs in coal mines soon, due to their new training:
It’s graduation day for 33-year-old prison inmate DJ Coomer at the Branchville Correctional Facility in Branchville, Ind.
He’s wearing his beige prison uniform, not a graduation robe. He’ll have to hand over his diploma to the prison secretary before he leaves the graduation ceremony, and at the end of the day, he’ll still be in prison, where he’s doing a year for dealing meth. But in spite of that, Coomer is excited about what his new certificate will allow him to do once he gets out.
“I’m going to be certified to where I can actually go to work at a coal mine,” says Coomer.
Indiana’s prison administrators are redesigning their educational programs for prisoners. After the state cut funding for college degree programs for inmates, prison officials are now focusing on training inmates for jobs in specific industries.
Coomer is one of 30 inmates in the first graduating class of a program that teaches inmates mining technology. The inmates attended weekly classes to earn a license that could, in theory, help them get jobs in mines when they get out. When Coomer is released later this summer, he’ll head back to his home in Gibson County and try to get a job in one of the nearby mines.