Getting one-time Vermont inmates back on the job can come with challenges.
"One of the great barriers I have seen over the last few years is when people are released from prison they may have skills, but there is no linkage to a job," said Wilhelmina Picard, the director of education for the Vt. Corrections Department.
This week Gov. Peter Shumlin announced plans to take on the problem with hopes of keeping people from returning to prison.
"We as a state have launched an aggressive war on recidivism," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.
The state is combining its Community High School of Vermont-- a program that educates young people in the custody of the department of Corrections-- with the Vermont Correctional Industries program, one that focuses on tangible trade skills. The goal is to have a coordinated effort to get folks working once they're released.
"What we are hoping to do is take it from the social academic, technical to an internship and then directly into employment when they walk out the door," Picard said.
The new streamlined effort will serve about 2,500 offenders a year. It is slated to save taxpayers money by consolidating resources and reallocating staff.
"By merging these entities we believe we can save $600,000, better concentrate our efforts and redefine the programs to ensure that they are serving us well," Shumlin said.
The initiative will expand the focus on skills connected to jobs in high demand like working in the food and hospitality industry, auto-tech and small engine repair.
"We are realistic and right to the point with people. If you have certain convictions you can't participate. If you have drug convictions, you can't be a nurse. If you have a felony, you can't be a hairdresser," Picard said.
Participants will also work on creating small business plans and make preparations for independent living.
Folks overseeing the retraining say they're looking at the new development at and around Jay Peak as a possible source for jobs for program participants.
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