By Dan Copp, The Courier 

Nearly half the people released from prison will one day return behind bars, according to the Department of Justice.

Hoping to break that cycle, the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office joined forces with Fletcher Technical Community College and Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana to provide job training for jail inmates before they re-enter society.

Officials kicked off the program Friday during a signing ceremony at Fletcher’s Schriever campus.

Inmates who receive some form of education or job training are less likely to return to a life of crime after they are released from prison, Fletcher Chancellor Kristine Strickland said.

“I’m so pleased that we’re able to continue to partner with Goodwill Industries and Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office in providing opportunities for individuals who are in work-release programs and to those who are incarcerated to earn skills to begin a journey that will help them re-enter into our communities and become active and engaged citizens,” Strickland said. “It is programs like these that make a substantial difference in our communities. These individuals need education, training and a pathway to success to make a living and create a life once they exit the judicial system. That’s what we’re here to provide.”

Under the agreement, Fletcher will provide participants with training, testing, supplies and equipment along with career and financial-aid counseling.

Sheriff Tim Soignet said there are about 66 inmates currently participating in the workforce, and he wants to see that number grow.

“This is a step in the right direction,” he said. “I do firmly believe in education. We want these guys to get their GEDs so they can have a good start coupled with Fletcher so they can get some certifications that can put them in the workforce and build their résumés. I think that’s important because when an offender gets out and moves on the right path, we are preventing crime. We’re trying to put them on a different path so that they can become productive citizens.”

Jodee E. Daroca, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana, said the company has been helping inmates get back on their feet for nearly 10 years.

“Our success is based on the fact that we have really strong case management, job coaches, retention specialists and people who go out into the community and find partnerships just like this,” Daroca said. “We really do believe in a holistic approach to deal with all of our participants to try and make sure we’re meeting them where they have a need.”

The training inmates receive will lead to not only jobs but paths to high-paying careers, Strickland said. Some of the skills that will be offered include welding, forklift certifications and automotive training.

“There are jobs out there and we need every member of our community to participate in our workforce, especially as we attempt to recover from COVID,” she said.

Read the original Houma Today story here.