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Inmates being put to work in the classroom

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One pilot program at the Department of Corrections is hoping to combat the prison's high recidivism rates by putting inmates to work - in a classroom.

They're more than inmates. Some are students. Some are instructors. Each is a product of a partnership between the Department of Corrections, the Department of Labor American Job Center and the GCA Trades Academy, who have created a training unit at the prison.

Daniel Sanchez is a student in the program. Like his peers, he's optimistic about his future outside the confines of a jail cell, saying, "It humbles me to come up here and share my experience. I never thought that I would do something like this or pursue a career in the construction industry, but like I said, it opens the door of opportunity."

Vince Palomo is also an inmate, but an experienced welder. He was trained to be an instructor for the program. Palomo has nothing but praise for the organizers who've helped him find his new purpose in life, and told KUAM News, "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be standing here right now. I wouldn't have that opportunity to do something positive with my life, which is teaching."

For inmate and instructor Frank Blas, he sees the trainings as an opportunity to help address a growing problem in Guam's workforce. "We have approximately 1,500 detainees and inmates - this is a very good source of labor. Now, I felt proud to be part of the group that was teaching because it gave everyone, it gives everyone a second chance out there," he shared.

While local statistics show more than half of prisoners are likely to re-offend and return to a life behind bars, GCA Trades Academy's Dr. Bert Johnson believes in beating the odds. This program gives them that opportunity, saying, "These individuals will be walking out of this facility carrying a nice blue card that says you've been certified and trained. At least in the core classes. Statistics show that 75% are back here within five years. 75% are back here in five years. So how do you beat that? My suggestion is that if you come back here, you come back here not as a client, but to fix the lights to fix the A/Cs. to fix the facility here because nobody knows it better than you and you've got the competencies to do that."

The course consists of nine modules that provide the foundation for all the crafts. Upon release from the Department of Corrections, the Department of Labor will continue to assist these individuals with getting further certification and securing a job.

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