Jail Introduces New Education Programs for Inmates

DeFuniak Springs, Fla. - Many inmates become repeat offenders, and end up right back where they started. In an effort to stop this cycle, Walton County Jail is adding skill programs to educate their inmates.

Here at the Walton County Jail, inmates are learning everything from reading and writing to welding and farming.

"We want to give the inmates skills so that when they leave the facility that they can go out and get a job and better their home life. And take care of things, so they don't have to come back to jail," explained Deann Bertram, Walton Co. Jail Vocational Programs Manager.

Two new programs have recently been added. One is a welding course through  Northwest Florida State College.

"We start out with the basics. We teach them how to prep the metal and how to get it ready to weld," said Scott Bennett, Adjunct Professor of Welding and Technologies.
It's a six week program with eight selected inmates in the course. During the process, each inmate must pass three tests.

"Hopefully, once they get out there and start making that money, it will keep them off the streets and keep them out of here," shared Bennett.

"I thought it was a lot easier than it is, but I am learning a lot. I am happy for this opportunity," said Richard Burch, Walton County Jail Inmate.

The other new program is the heavy equipment program, where the inmates will learn how to use tractors and bull dozers.

"We went through John Deer, contacted John Deer. There's programs and stuff through John Deer where we can get the equipment," explained Sgt. Brian Freeman, Walton County Sheriff's Deputy.

"What will happen, is the inmates will go through the program and they will get certified as a heavy equipment operator," said Bertram.

These programs give the inmates a second chance and skills they will need to find a job after doing their time.

Jail officials say, this is part of the mission to reduce recidivism. In the future, they plan to add more job skilled programs. 

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