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Kentucky Working to Create a Prison-Industry Partnership


Kentucky’s top corrections official says staying out of prison could be as easy as having a job for some former inmates.

The state is developing a partnership between prisons and industries in hopes of both decreasing recidivism and filling vacant jobs.  Under the initiative, industries would move some operations to prison grounds, and provide training and near private sector wages to inmates.

A felony record often shuts former inmates out of the job market and that increases their chances of committing more offenses and returning to jail.   John Tilley, Secretary of the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, says the state has both a moral and pragmatic obligation to prepare inmates for life outside prison walls.

"If we don't help folks get on their feet, help them get jobs, they're going to return to the life that led them to prison in the first place," Tilley told WKU Public Radio.  "It's not good public safety, it's just not."

Tilley says the state releases about 16,000 prisoners a year, and they could be filling the thousands of jobs left vacant by a skills gap.

Employment would also allow inmates to make restitution and child support payments while inmates are serving time.

The state has received a waiver for the program and is still waiting on final approval from the U.S Department of Justice. In the meantime, Tilley says he’s in discussions with manufacturers to begin the first partnership which would likely be at a medium security prison.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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