Minimum-security inmate "believes in himself" after graduating NWTC program

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- Almost a dozen minimum-security inmates graduate from NWTC’s industrial maintenance certificate program Thursday afternoon.

For the past 14 weeks, inmates at Sanger B. Powers Correctional Center in Oneida have been taking a 14-credit technical training program at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

The inmates are learning how to troubleshoot and maintain industrial machinery.

On Thursday, 11 inmates graduated from the program, receiving their certificates.

One inmate, Kris, said this program has given him a future he didn’t think was possible. Kris has spent the last 3 years incarcerated.

“It’s given me the ability to believe in myself, that I’m not stuck where I am at or where I have been,” said Kris. “You know, I can go back to school and I can learn something new. To continue on and not be afraid to broaden my horizons instead of repeating the same mistakes I have.”

The Industrial Maintenance Certificate Program offered at NWTC is just one of several programs funded by Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections in hopes of helping inmates secure in-demand jobs after their sentences.

In a statement, DOC Secretary Cathy Jess said, “Expanding vocational education opportunities for inmates are invaluable for inmates seeking a second chance and employers seeking skilled workers. National research shows that every dollar invested in educational opportunities for inmates can save taxpayers five dollars in reincarceration costs over the next three years. We look forward to continuing to expand our education and vocational offerings to provide inmates the opportunity to receive their high school degree, learn an in-demand skill and release to the community with good prospects for employment.”

NWTC’s President Jeff Rafn said he would like to continue this partnership with the DOC in the future.

“Everybody has worth and people make mistakes,” said Rafn. “I hope that what they learned in all of this, is that they can do more than what they ever expected of themselves and can gain some self-confidence because they were able to take a difficult program…if they can do that, they can do just about anything.”

Of the 11 inmates who graduated Thursday, 10 of them already have jobs lined up and start work on Monday, including Kris.