Spartanburg County and Spartanburg Community College leaders should be recognized for taking the initiative to solve a problem they didn’t create and working to find an innovative solution.
Operation Education will bring the educational resources of Spartanburg Community College to the county jail to give those incarcerated the job skills and workplace habits necessary to gain employment and keep a job.
The program started with a conversation between Spartanburg County Council Chairman Jeff Horton, Maj. Neal Urch, who runs the jail for the county Sheriff’s Office, and Henry Giles, president of Spartanburg Community College.
They recognized that most inmates at the county jail are unemployed and have less than a high school education. Recent studies have shown that employers are emphasizing worker characteristics such as punctuality and cooperation with co-workers that also may be a challenge to inmates.
Horton told the Herald-Journal he had noticed the same people were being confined in the jail over and over again.
In an effort to reduce recidivism, they are trying to use the time these people spend in jail to give them the skills necessary to stay in the workforce.
The program has gone beyond the county and SCC. It now involves the Upstate Workforce Investment Board and S.C. Works Upstate, and there are efforts to bring more private groups into the effort.
Inmates will not get a degree from SCC, and may not even get a GED (high school equivalency), but they will get training in job skills such as small engine repair, landscaping and manufacturing.
They also get job readiness training including grooming and interviewing.
These fields were not chosen at random. The inmates are being trained for jobs that are available with employers willing to hire the recently incarcerated.
This is a worthy effort. It has the potential to not only save taxpayers money by reducing the jail population, it could have a significant impact on the lives of the inmates receiving the training. It could even have a dramatic effect on the families of those inmates, setting a new pattern of employment for their children.
Too often, we see leaders ignoring or putting off the very problems their actions have created. Just look at the current gridlock at the Statehouse in Columbia over fixing our roads. It is gratifying to see these local leaders stepping up to solve a problem every community has and coming up with an innovative solution.
As Horton said: “If we can keep four, five, six, seven people out of the jail, I think we’ve done a good job.” These leaders have stepped beyond their official duties to make a genuine effort to improve our community. Spartanburg County residents should thank them.
View article as it appears on GoUpstate.com