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“More jobs than people”: Prisoners Training to Work on Ohio Infrastructure Projects after Release

With unemployment at historic lows, Ohio is preparing prisoners for jobs after release by offering training in technical skills. In December 2023, the first group of eight state prisoners completed one such program, after training the previous eight months as tower technicians.

They are part of a group of prisoners from state lockups in Mansfield and Richland who enrolled in a local community college program training to work atop 150-foot-tall towers installing and repairing equipment needed to expand broadband and 5G internet access. Financed by the “Investing in America” plan, an ambitious $550 billion federal infrastructure package championed by Pres. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D), the program needs an estimated 23,000 to 35,000 such workers for its effort to provide broadband access to some 30 million Americans.

Prisoners who meet the security criteria leave twice a week to attend training at North Central State College. When fully certified, they can start working for a private employer even before their release date, so they can save money for housing and transportation. Studies show that having a place to live and a way to get to work post-release helps lower recidivism.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted (R) says prisoners are needed to fill these jobs because employers “can’t find anybody to take them.” He admitted that Ohio citizens criticized spending money on job training for prisoners in the past because they believed a prisoner would take a job away from a person on the outside. But reflecting on the current employment market, Husted said now “[w]e’ve got more jobs than people.”

State Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Annette Chambers-Smith says employers who would have refused to hire released prisoners in the past have been coming to the agency looking for workers. She calls the program a win-win for all involved.  


Source: NBC News

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