NACC Adult Education partners with sheriff’s office for inmate Ready to Work program

Ready to Work certificates are earned by local inmates, positioning them to make better lives for themselves. 

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s office and Northeast Alabama Community College Adult Education program entered into partnership in January 2020 providing the first Ready to Work class to the inmates. When approached with the idea of bringing the Ready to Work program inside the jail, Sheriff Nick Welden jumped on the idea.

“The ultimate goal when dealing with incarcerated people, in my opinion, is to do what we can do within our scope and authority to provide the help they need from the DCSO perspective to better their future once released,” he said. “We are very limited in what we can do or provide as it is, so this was a no brainer and a great opportunity to help get folks back on track and help with the revolving door issue we face.”

In February 2020, the first Ready to Work female inmate class earned their certification. Ready to Work is a certification program that teaches workforce soft skills, along with general remediation. Students earn the National Career Readiness Certificate, FDIC and Alabama Certified Worker. Not only do the inmates gain employability skills, but these educational services help build self-worth within each student.

The second class started in March and then COVID shut classes down from meeting face to face.

“We had to get creative with how to serve our inmate students due to the restrictions of COVID, as well as the corrections restrictions,” said Melissa Ledbetter, NACC Adult education employee. “We gathered instructional packets and I spoke through the jail videoconferencing app to each of the ladies.” NACC was able to return to face-to-face instruction February 2021. Fifty female inmates have enrolled with over 60 certificates earned to date. Certificates offered include digital learning and general workplace certificates. The Sheriff’s office now has GED classes being offered within the facility, as well as plans to bring in additional trainings in the future. Classes for the male inmates were added in May 2021. David Smith, Jail Administrator is proud that the DeKalb County Sheriff’s office was the first correctional agency in our area to offer education to defendants.

“The education they receive has made a noticeably positive impact in their lives. I believe Ready to Work is changing the atmosphere of being incarcerated. This program will give them the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families, which has always been our goal at the Sheriff’s Office,” said David Smith.

Ready to Work and GED classes have since been added to the local court documents.

Jon-Alan Pope, NACC Director of Adult Education stated, “Partnering with the Sheriff’s office to host classes within the jail has opened new doors for both the Adult Education Program and the inmates. Our goal is to help the inmates continue their education and develop the skills necessary to gain employment upon release. We also are hopeful that by offering this service to this population, we will start seeing recidivism rates begin to decline.”

Welden said even though “we’ve had many obstacles in our way such as COVID, the Administration of the Detention Center has continued to push forward and create great opportunities for those incarcerated. Being one of the only detention centers in the area providing classes such as this and GED certificates show we are continually working to give people another chance when released back out into society. Sometimes people just need a little help and this is another way DCSO is trying to do just that.”

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