BAY COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) — A partnership between the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and AMIkids is helping inmates get the skills they need to be productive after jail.
The “Re-entry Program” is open to inmates ages 18 to 24 looking to change their lifestyle.
Since 2019, 39 inmates have gone through the program and it has seen a 93 percent success rate.
Sheriff Tommy Ford said the instructors make sure they get what they need to be successful.
“It’s to give people the skills necessary that when they get out they’ll never go back,” Ford said.
The program is funded by the Department of Labor and helps inmates learn skills from food services to construction.
AMIkids Panama City Executive Director Ron Boyce said they help them with all aspects of finding the job.
“We work with them on the front in on the job skills and on the back end having a job waiting for them,” Boyce said.
Inside they work on getting them job certifications and skills as well as the soft skills they need to work with others.
Outside of the jail, the instructors communicate with employers to find out who is willing to hire.
The physical skills are important, but it’s the support from instructors like BJ Morris that make the impact.
“It’s very inspirational the people sitting there are broken, their confidence level is at the bottom and just to go in and show him that someone actually still cares,” Morris said. “Most of them actually are motivated. That is the best time to build on what they have.”
Twice a week the group meets for class — reading books, and getting hands-on experience. Once they have served their time Morris continues to look out for them.
Morris and other instructors pick them up from the jail if they have no one else, take them to lunch, and make sure they have a safe place to go.
“We are just trying to help them through that transition and to get started on the right track,” Morris said.
They help set up job interviews and provide them with proper clothing.
After, they watch them start their new lives. Some move as far as Nashville, while others like Adam Detunno start over in Bay County.
“Once you are done with that you finally want a change, but you have to want a change to actually take something from the program,” Detunno said.
Detunno was 24 when he went through the program. He said he wanted to get on a better path after serving time in jail. He now has a steady job and feels confident in his new lifestyle.