Seven clay county inmates graduate from a construction skills program

WEST POINT, Miss. (WCBI)- Graduation congratulations are in order but these students didn’t cross the stage at a college or high school. These best wishes are for some local inmates. East Mississippi Community College (EMCC), the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), and the Clay County Sheriff’s Department formed a partnership to teach inmates construction skills.

Seven inmates at the Clay County Detention Center laid the foundation for a new life through a construction skills program. The classes started as an idea between the Clay County Sheriff’s Department and EMCC. Each of the trustees has now graduated to something bigger than themselves.

“We will not only be able to use those tools to better ourselves but better everybody around us,” said graduate Shane Bazzell.

Now, they have the tools and skills to build from the ground up. They learned everything from pouring concrete for foundations to roofing.

“Being in the position that we are you know and being able to get any kind of life skill and it not just be a punishment to get something good out of it is an excellent opportunity,” said Bazzell.

The seven inmates took a total of 96 hours of learning different construction skills; not only to get a certificate of participation but to get opportunities for work once they’re free.

“Actually I get out Saturday so I’m going to back and try to catch back up with subcontracting and do a little more work but it’s just a good chance to be able to use tools I haven’t gotten to use as I was doing flooring to teach me about the school,” said graduate Roderrick Walker.

The class was taught by former EMCC carpenter instructor Johnny Duren. He said these skills will always be relevant and teaching the inmates a career is good for everyone.

“As long as people live in houses somebody got to work on them. If I can teach these guys just a little something that I have learned throughout my career that they can carry on it’s just like leaving part of me to live on and on and on in their lives,” said Duren.

The inmates each scored at least a silver on the WorkKeys exam before even being accepted into the program and seeing how far they’ve come in just months left coordinators thrilled.

“Too often people give up too early and so allowing them this opportunity and seeing their community behind them you. It also helps them see that they really do have support if they want to get out and do really fun things build their life again we’re happy to be a part of that and proud of their efforts,” said the vice president of economic development at EMCC Courtney Taylor.

The sheriff’s department and EMCC plan to host a class on plumbing in the near future.

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