BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) – Since 2016, the incarcerated population has decreased because of programs training people for jobs when they get out of prison.
It may look like normal Capital Area construction.
“Once I started it, it was just the idea of learning something new and being given an opportunity and it made me really want it,” Shelia Jenkins said.
But at Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, inmates are practicing using heavy equipment.
“I love it and it’s something that I would pursue outside of here because you get the feel of what you’ve been training for, and we’ve been training since 2019, so now we get the feel of what we’ve really been doing, so now it feels like an accomplishment,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins and her colleagues are training to be able to teach more women how to use these machines.
“It’s a male-dominated industry, true, but I feel like it should be equal because being out here, we probably get the same feeling that they get, but it’s more invigorating because we are women, and no other women are really doing this, and we get an opportunity to make a statement to say, yeah, we could do it, to open the doors for us as well in order to get us a good paying job like them,” Jenkins said.
Before they get to the real heavy equipment, they practice on simulators.
“I can see why they do this, they simulate fighter jets and truck driving, so I see now how this really works because getting on the actual machine is so much easier because you know what they look for,” Dawn Bennet said.
Bennet is working on passing her certification exam next week.
“While we’re here right now, you can help train other people that can go home, and they can make a living, and make an honest living, they don’t have to come to prison,” Bennet said.
Since 2016, incarceration for non-violent offenses has gone down 35 percent, according to LWIC.
According to Kristy McGovern, Director of Educational Programs, that’s because of re-entry programs.
“They are going back with social skills and job employment skills as well as just character and financial ability and everything else that goes with that, so when they release, they are prepared to stay out of prison,” McGovern said.
Teaching women these professions normally dominated by men helps them break more barriers.
“I think we can do a lot of things if we would just put our mind to and focus on them. Learning overcomes obstacles. Yeah, it’s hot out there, but we’ve been having a blast out there,” Bennet said.