Skills Training Helps Rehabilitate Inmates
The Sheridan Correctional Center in Illinois — the facility that hosts the Home Builders Institute's (HBI) Project TRADE (Training, Restitution, Apprenticeship, Development and Education) program — has received national attention for its work in reducing recidivism and reintegrating adult offenders back into society, most recently in the June 26 edition of The New York Times.
Recognizing that drug addiction is a major reason that offenders are ending up behind bars, Sheridan shifted the focus of its treatment to substance abuse, with an emphasis on rehabilitating its prisoners. An expansion of the facility is underway, and with 1,300 beds serving 1,700 prisoners annually, Sheridan will become the largest prison dedicated to drug treatment in the country.
To make its transition from a typical prison to an exclusive drug treatment facility, Sheridan needed to introduce programs designed to rehabilitate substance abusers. Because the lack of employment opportunities for offenders remains a major reason why many do not leave the justice system, Sheridan partnered with HBI, the workforce development arm of NAHB, to provide its population with the opportunity to learn home building skills.
The collaborative efforts between Sheridan and HBI go back a few years to the time when its warden, Michael Rothwell, working as a deputy administrator for Idaho’s Department of Correction, discussed prisoner reentry initiatives, ballooning recidivism rates and the industry’s labor shortages with Jim Woodyard, a prominent builder in the state and an HBI trustee.
From Woodyard, Rothwell learned about HBI’s vocational training programs and how they reduce recidivism rates by preparing participants to enter the construction industry, where skilled workers are in great demand. Impressed with what he heard, Rothwell contacted HBI when he relocated to Illinois.
The initial call from Rothwell came in the spring of last year and by October, HBI and Sheridan had signed a five-year contract to offer Project TRADE at the facility. HBI is training 180 Sheridan students annually in building and apartment maintenance, carpentry and electrical skills.
“Sheridan is selective and the state decides who will be sent here,” says Rothwell. In fact, candidates must be serving six to 24 months and volunteer for the program. “Those with mental illness or violent offenders are not accepted, and those that do make it to the program must spend time in group therapy, drug counseling and classes or job training, such as HBI’s Project TRADE,” he added.
Project TRADE expects its first graduates later this summer, and will continue to operate at Sheridan through 2009.
For more information on Project TRADE, e-mail John Hattery at HBI, or call him at 800-795-7955 x8916.