Would Your Body Shop Hire a Convicted Felon?
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Would Your Body Shop Hire a Convicted Felon?

A new video featuring Mike Rowe takes viewers inside the Vocational Village, a skilled-trades training program within the medium-security Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility.

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Josh Cable has 17 years of experience as a writer and editor for newspapers, B2B publications and marketing organizations. His areas of expertise include U.S. manufacturing, lean/Six Sigma and workplace safety and health.

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A Department of Justice study found that 77 percent of released inmates were re-arrested within five years. But would that number be lower if those same inmates had left prison with the skills and certifications for in-demand trades such as collision repair?

Anthony Wilscheid, an automotive instructor at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, Mich., suggests that might be the case.

“If these guys walk out of here and they can’t make any money, they’re gonna go back to a life of crime,” Wilscheid says in a new video posted by the Charles Koch Institute. “If they can do well, the odds of them coming back [are] a lot lower.”

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The Dec. 14 video takes viewers inside the Vocational Village, a skilled-trades training program within the medium-security Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility.

The Michigan Department of Corrections describes the Vocational Village as “a first-of-its-kind program in the nation that trains a select group of prisoners from around the state on in-demand skilled trades” such as welding, CNC machining, carpentry, plumbing and automotive technology. The program matches “the aptitudes and interests of prisoners with the trades that are most in demand in the counties that they will return to upon release.” In August, the state opened a second Vocational Village, at the Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, Mich.

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The video features TV personality Mike Rowe, who talks about the importance of ensuring that released prisoners are “engaged and interested on some kind of positive track.”

“We don’t want to reintroduce people to a society who aren’t ready to be in the society and who don’t have a useful skill and who don’t have a measure of ambition or enthusiasm or hope,” Rowe says in the video.

As the video takes viewers through the Vocational Village, it shows inmate Joshua Fornier reassembling an automatic transmission. Fornier says he came to prison “knowing nothing about automobiles,” and now is close to becoming a master mechanic.

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“Prison should be a rehabilitation – plain and simple,” Fornier says.

Take a look and let us know what you think.

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