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Louisiana Program Considered "Gold Standard" for Prisoner Rehabilitation

Criminal justice advocates and fiscal conservatives are pointing to a program in Louisiana aimed at skills training for prisoners at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola as a model for how states should go about designing their re-entry programs. The prison offers certain inmates a chance to earn certifications in things like welding, masonry, automotive, and HVAC repair. More than 250 certifications have been awarded since 2010.

The Advocate in New Orleans reports:

Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum and a proponent of the prison reforms, said on a Friday tour of Angola that the re-entry court program should be expanded and replicated across the state. He said it's a glowing example of the value and efficacy of rehabilitation programs for criminals.

"How do you reform corrections smartly? For me, you have to rehabilitate people wisely," he said.

The re-entry program was created in the Legislature in 2010 and has since been expanded to 13 parishes. District attorneys and judges in those parishes can select non-violent offenders, who are not sex offenders, and are sentenced to less than 10 years in jail to the Angola re-entry program where they receive daily job training and additional supports.

While Angola is known for housing inmates with the longest sentences, the campus has for years had in place an infrastructure where inmates were receiving morality coaching -- through its partnership with the New Orleans Baptist Seminary – and other job training.

That's why the state program for those inmates with shorter sentences landed at Angola. The re-entry program also benefits from funding provided by the annual Angola rodeo, which pays for job training equipment.

According to the State of Louisiana's website, the training is made possible through multiple partnerships:

“…highly-skilled offender mentors are utilized to enhance the training development in automotive and construction training classes to assist non-skilled offenders in attaining an Industry-Based Certification (IBC) in their chosen field of training. Certifications through the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) are offered to offenders as they complete the training program to assist the offender in attaining employment after release.

The Department partners with the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) to offer offenders faith-based course work leading to an Associate or Bachelors Degree in Theology. This program has proven to enhance the social and quality-of-life skills needed for this population.

Though a partnership with the Louisiana Community & Technical College System (LCTCS), offenders are able to earn college credit in vocational-technical training fields. Vocational-technical education programs focus on the development of entry-level employment skills for offenders through classroom instruction and hands-on training. The Department offers the following vocational programs at various institutions. Program descriptions are provided on subsequent pages.

Find out more about the programs here