COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Sixteen inmates at the Manning Reentry Work Release Center on Beckman Drive in Columbia are taking a week-long course in commercial roofing.
Offered by the GAF Roofing Academy, the program teaches inmates the basics of roofing and allows them to install portions of a mock roof.
According to training supervisor Jay McCord, the academy even offers inmates a placement specialist to help them find jobs as a roofer after they are released.
“After the course is over, we help them connect with contractors who are looking to hire and make that facilitation so they come in and you know that from day one when they come out, they’re good to go, to to be a really good job and a nice community to jump into and get straight into the industry,” says McCord.
George is an inmate at the Manning Reentry Work Release Center.
“If you want to get into the construction space, this is a great opportunity. It gives guys like me the leg we need when we get out of here so we can get started right away. We will already have employment. It’s just a great opportunity to really re-join society when you come out,” says George.
George also says he appreciates the hands-on experience and has taken other courses offered during his incarceration, such as forklift operations and peer support courses.
“We would love to have more courses like this. It’s a perfect opportunity. It not only gives us something to do, it gives us another trade. The more trades we have, the better off we might be when we get back into society,” says George.
SC Corrections Director Bryan Stirling says South Carolina has the lowest percentage of inmates who return to prison after release — anywhere in the country. Stirling believes courses like this help by giving inmates hope.
“It’s significant what we’re doing here with rehab classes. If someone is incarcerated in the Department of Corrections and wants to be rehabilitated, as you can see behind me, that’s available to them,” says Stirling.
According to McCord, inmates have a small graduation ceremony and receive a certificate upon completion of the course.
He also says the course is free for the Department of Corrections – GAF Roofing Academy pays the entire cost of the program.