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CalPIA, Ironworkers Union, Set Apprentice Training Program for Inmates

Education to help inmates start careers upon parole

Sacramento…..In an effort to reduce the state’s excessive rate of repeat crime among prison inmates, The California Prison Industry Authority (CalPIA) and the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union Local 118 today announced creation of an apprenticeship training program that will prepare inmates for professional careers as tradesmen when they are released on parole.

“If we can offer these people a career in the construction business that pays good wages with benefits, not just a job, these people likely will not come back to prison,” said John Rafter, business manager of the union.

“California’s prison population is higher than at any other time in its history and a 70 percent recidivism rate among inmates is one of the biggest reasons why,” noted Charles Pattillo, CalPIA general manager. “Giving these inmates an opportunity to rehabilitate their lives is the best solution to prison overcrowding by reducing crime in our communities.”

Under a formal agreement between the union and CalPIA, inmates will receive the same year-long pre-apprenticeship training that is provided to other aspiring craftsman, taught by a journeyman ironworker and union member. When graduating inmates parole, they will be enrolled in union apprenticeship programs throughout California.

CalPIA will provide each inmate with the basic tools they need for the first day on the job and will pay their union dues for one year to help them financially during their transition.

The training program will be conducted at CalPIA’s facility on the outskirts of Folsom Prison, where inmates will learn about safety laws, basic construction requirements, and welding techniques.

The curriculum includes classroom presentations and real world experience on a CalPIA assembly line that manufactures modular buildings that will be used to expand prison capacity and that will be sold to other governmental agencies.

CalPIA is a financially self-supporting state agency that employs approximately 7,000 inmates in manufacturing and agricultural businesses that offer opportunities for them to learn trades and to earn wages that can help them financially when they are released from prison.

The ironworkers training program is modeled after a successful and similar CalPIA program that has graduated approximately 120 inmates into carpentry apprenticeships in the last year. Preliminary data from that program indicates that approximately 16 percent of the graduates have committed new crimes and been returned to prison, compared to 70 percent for the general prison population.