RICHMOND — Prison officials credit the Virginia Department of Corrections’ emphasis on reentry for the recent success of two former offenders who found jobs within days of their release.
Effective programming helped these men find green-collar jobs in the Tidewater area within days, 9 and 13, respectively, of their release.
In a system where approximately 95 percent of all offenders eventually return to their communities, this type of reentry effort is paramount, corrections officials said.
“This agency emphasizes reentry from day one,” said Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke. “For those offenders who are willing to do the hard work, this type of program can help them on the road to becoming law-abiding, contributing citizens.” Recent recidivism numbers suggest Virginia’s former offenders are more successful than ever.
Earlier this year, the VADOC posted its lowest recidivism rate in state history. The 22.8 percent rate makes Virginia’s recidivism rate among the lowest in the nation, due in large measure to the effectiveness of agency programs like the Green Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) course that the two men at Indian Creek Correctional Center recently completed.
“We are fighting crime through education,” said VADOC’s acting Superintendent of Education Dr. Christopher Colville. From start to finish it would take a Green HVAC beginner approximately three years to complete the course offered at the medium-security prison in Chesapeake.
The program includes a training facility, state-of-the-art HVAC equipment and comprehensive curriculum led by experienced instructors. It is designed to prepare offenders for HVAC-related careers such as service mechanics, controls technicians and maintenance specialists.
Johnson Controls, Inc. contributed to the building of the training facility – much of which was done with offender labor – and brought in equipment as part of an ongoing agreement with VADOC.
Students have the opportunity to learn HVAC basics, including maintenance and installation, before launching into progressively more technical aspects of the trade, culminating in a final portion focused on computerized environmental control.
“This is an enormously popular class for our students and understandably so. The right person can turn his life around with this opportunity,” said Instructor Michael Warlikowski, who has worked at Indian Creek since 2011.
The first portion of the course emphasizes building maintenance repair and allows the students to obtain several certifications including the EPA 608, the 410-A Safety Certification and the OSHA 10. Any other certifications are out-of-pocket expenses for the students.
The second portion reinforces the first and also emphasizes HVAC service and installation while expanding the students’ knowledge through “employment ready” certification tests.
The final portion of the course allows students to become computerized environmental control installers. It is intensely technical study where students learn foundational concepts of building control sequences and operations common today.
Amid the technical aspects remains one simple, guiding outcome, said VADOC’s Director of Vocational Programs Morris Dews. “We are helping these guys reclaim their lives and make a living wage. They are returning to their communities as productive, tax-paying citizens.”
More information on the VADOC can be found at www.vadoc.virginia.gov.