FILE - Prison, jail, inmate, corrections

A new program in Texas that helps prepare inmates for life after prison recently graduated its first class.

Fourteen inmates at the all-female Lockhart Correctional Facility, located about 33 miles to the south of Austin, now hold certificates for successfully completing a manufacturing training program sponsored by Austin Community College.

Don Tracy, director of Corporate and Community Education for Continuing Education Division at ACC, said that it was the school’s first time implementing it in the correctional setting.

“There are a couple unique things about it,” Tracy told The Center Square. “One, we launched the program – the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council Certified Production Technical Program – at a women’s unit, and that’s unusual … and the second thing, we, in partnership with the Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area board, were able to leverage Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act federal training dollars to support the training that we did inside of the correctional facility. And that’s the first time that any of us are aware of in the State of Texas that the [WIOA] money has been used in a correctional setting.”

ACC partnered with the state’s Department of Criminal Justice and the Lockhart unit, which is managed by private operator Management and Training Corporation of America on the program.

“MTC is very focused on rehabilitation and reentry so they were excited to partner with us to bring some job training programs out to the facility,” Tracy said. “The Lockhart Correctional Facility is also very unique in that it has a prison industry program that includes two civilian businesses who actually have manufacturing operations inside of the facility. The combination of the focus on rehabilitation and reentry, the prison industry program, and the type of program that we have, all of the pieces came together for us to be able to do this program.”

The 14 inmates who completed the program are scheduled to be released within a few months. To graduate, the students take an exam and those who pass become certified production technicians.

According to Tracy, program participants should test out at least at a 9th or 10th grade level on the Texas Assessment of Basic Education Skills and are six to 12 months within projected release.

“The warden and her staff, based on those very simple criteria, went through and identified the individuals who were interested in participating in the program and then culled that down to the first 14 students that we have,” he said.

Tracy added that the students had some form of education ranging from a GED to some college credit.