McCracken County Jail and West Kentucky Community and Technical College have partnered to launch their first inmate education program, teaching skills needed to re-enter the workforce.
The program starts with six students. This first class will learn how to work with electricity and the skills needed to be an electrician.
However, this program has run into problems before, launching several years after the male equivalent and with fewer options, although there are plans to expand it.
“Generally, there aren’t normally enough women ranked to be able to join the program,” said McCracken County Jailer David Knight. “If you have one or two that are rated to do it, then you have to have those two interested in the program.”
“This time we looked in there and we had six,” Lt. Arnie Puckett said.
“We had six and I was sitting there crossing my fingers that they all wanted to do it, and they all did it,” Puckett said. “The stars really did align for this one to happen.”
Overall, this system was born out of a desire to help and rehabilitate those who faced difficulties in their past.
“The whole point of this is to stop recidivism,” said Kevin O’Neill, WKCTC vice president for regional workforce training and economic development.
“We want to stop this cycle and help you and your families improve your life. Based on that, we wrote this grant and we received a grant of over $277,000 to provide everything we needed. Then COVID happened.
COVID came at the height of the days when programs like the ones that led to it were planning to start in McCracken County.
“The first year, we literally couldn’t do anything,” O’Neill said. “It only opened at the end of last year. Now we already have a welding course going on and now we also have this electrical course. These ladies are really leading the way.
All the students were excited about the opportunities this could bring them and their families.
“It’s very exciting,” said Lawana Quertermous, one of the students in the program.
“It gives us the chance to have a career and be able to provide for our family. I think it’s great that they do this for us. Most people, when they go out, have nowhere to go, nothing to do and nowhere to start, even if they are not on drugs. I’m just grateful for this opportunity.
Another hopeful student in the program is Megan Hutchison.
“For me, I’ve spent a lot of my life in and out of prison,” Hutchison said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been here, but recidivism is prevalent in my life, and I want to change that. Every opportunity given to me since I’ve been here, I’ve taken it because I want to live a better life when I get out here. And I don’t know what it looks like. So hopefully this will give me some insight into what it is.