Inmates could get trades training under Senate bill

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A bill to help prisoners get training in truck driving, plumbing and other trades is now headed to the full Indiana Senate for consideration.

Senate Bill 173, authored by Sen. R. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, requires the Indiana Department of Correction to establish a specialized vocational program to train minimum-security inmates in trades.

Young told the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee that he limited the trades to what the DOC requested—truck driving, manufacturing, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning—but he’d be willing to open it up to even more. The committee approved the bill 9-1.

Department of Correction Legislative Director Tim Brown said the DOC chose jobs for the program based on market demand because it’s so important that inmates leaving prison find work.

“Three of the most common barriers for re-entry are housing, transportation, and employment—with employment being one of the most crucial points,” Brown said.

Brown also said that the state intends to partner with institutions, commercial driving course instructors and private businesses so inmates get real on-the-job training.

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak spoke against the bill. He said his biggest concern is public safety because inmates would have to go outside prison fences to receive some of the training.

The bill includes standards that limit who can participate—and essentially bans those convicted of violent crimes or who have some health concerns. But Young said similar programs are “already ongoing.”

“We are just getting permission to do these other things,” he said. “There are crews that work outside currently.”

Young also said that the inmates would constantly be under supervision. The inmates would go out in crews and learn their trade during the day and would return to the prison at night.

“Whether they go through this program and have a job or not, they are still being released,” Young said. “All were trying to do with this bill is give them a chance to get a job on the outside.”

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