Inmates help fix, service squad cars with training from PRCC vocational program

Published 7:00 am Thursday, January 29, 2015

There is an area behind the maintenance facility at the criminal justice center in Millard where patrol cars are fixed and routinely serviced at an on-site auto shop.

It functions much like any other auto shop would, except it is staffed entirely by state inmate trusties.

Major Kelvin Stanford, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the shop, sees the work program as a valuable asset to all parties involved.

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“We try to cut any unnecessary spending we can,” said Stanford, “This program saves the county and the taxpayers money.”

Stanford said the inmates participating in the program also benefit because the experience and training they receive while incarcerated can translate to gainful employment once they are released.

Two summers ago, the on-the-job training at the prison took an important step forward when the prison partnered with Pearl River Community College’s vocational program. Each summer, 10 inmates are selected to receive on-site instruction at PRCC in the field of automotive repair and maintenance. This program benefits the prison, as it not only broadens the inmates’ opportunities and helps to prepare them for life after prison, but also elevates the quality of the inmate workforce.

“Pearl River Community College has been really good to this department,” said Stanford, “They have provided resources that I don’t think we could have gotten anywhere else.”

At PRCC, the inmates are given extensive instruction and hands-on experience with modern equipment. Because of the quality of their training, the auto shop at the prison can perform almost all of their required maintenance.

“There is little to no limit to what we can do at our facility,” said Stanford.

The inmates who participate in these programs must qualify for admission based on requirements set by the state. Most are nonviolent offenders who have served the bulk of their sentence.

Stanford said he is thankful to PRCC for the help they provide. He said trusties are valuable to all departments of local government, and added that having to pay employees to replace the work inmates do would cause a substantial increase in the department’s budget.

“We are blessed to have what we have,” said Stanford, “Having to take these cars into shops would demand a significant budget increase.”