First-Of-Its-Kind Program Helping Inmates Reform, Land Good Jobs

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MITCHELLVILLE, Iowa -- A new program at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women is helping inmates land higher paying jobs following their release.

Fifteen non-violent offenders were chosen to participate in a first-of-its-kind program in the nation. The women spent seven weeks learning different positions in the transportation, distribution and logistics field. The field has grown nationally by 20 percent, but the field is under-represented by women.

Twila Pore, 47, was excited to have the opportunity for a better future.

"I never had much of an education. I dropped out when I got pregnant at 15, so my only jobs have been illegal ones -- selling drugs and doing things I shouldn't have been doing," she said.

Pore said she's helped with purchase orders, invoices and crossed trained on the payroll. She's also learned how to operate a forklift.

"I feel like I've grown a lot. Now, I have education and I have skills. I have something I can take with  me when I leave here, and there's no reason why I can't go out and get a good job, a legal job, and support myself and be a good productive member of society," she said

Each woman will graduate the program with an OSHA and forklift certification and be certified as a logistics technician. The program is a joint collaboration between the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women, Central Iowa Works and DMACC.

"That's the number one goal -- that they leave the facility employable and that we quickly find them employment," said Central Iowa Works instructor Zach Steele.

Steele said the program has an 86 percent placement rate with graduates earning up to $14 an hour.

"If they have a job, if they have steady employment, they're less likely to end up back here," Steele said.

Pore said it's given her the opportunity to get a good-paying job once she's released this summer. She said she plans to attend DMACC and become a safety inspector.

"It's opened up a whole new door, endless possibilities. I can really do something with myself. I have skills now, I have an education. And for that, I'm very grateful," she said.

All 15 women graduated from the program last week.  It was so successful, a similar program has been rolled out at the Newton Correctional Facility for men.