- Created on Monday, 03 March 2003 03:18
- Written by Petra Lattmann
Inmates Earn College Credits - On August 19, 2002, seven inmates working in the laundry facility at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility successfully completed the Laundry Technician Technology School, a test pilot program initiated by the Colorado Department of Corrections.The program was conceived two years ago following a poll of private sector laundry facilities around the state of Colorado which indicated that better educated workers were desired. In response, Jerry Albrecht who oversees internal operational of all state laundry operations from the Department of Corrections' central office in Colorado Springs, gathered educational leaders and laundry facility Lieutenants and developed a course designed to give inmates a chance at more gainful employment upon release.
The result was a 16-unit college-level program of approximately 250 course study hours accredited by Colorado's Mountain View Educational Center. Grades for the course are determined on attendance, participation, module exams and a final exam. Upon completion each inmate receives a Certificate of Completion from Colorado’s Mountain View Educational Center and a transcript of his grades which can be used in any Colorado community college.
The six-month, eight-module course begins with an intensive study of laundry room terminology, essential to further discussion about occupational safety, wash room chemistry, textiles, linen management, equipment, production and tailoring and alterations. Course material, including manuals, workbooks, publications, and videos were gathered by reading trade publications and appealing to organizations such as NAILM, G.A. Braun, Ecolab, Phillips & Associates, as well as utilizing state sources.
"What we found was that many inmates were reentering the work force as laundry laborers, with very little skills and without any technical knowledge of equipment," said Donald Andreoli, instructor and laundry supervisor at the facility. "So this is an accelerated class. Inmates who qualify for the program must have a GED, be set for release in the next five years or under, pose no problems for their case managers, and have an intense desire to learn."
The initial test pilot program, conducted in a corner of the laundry facility itself, allowed for additional hands-on equipment training with the facility's 250- pound Milnor washer, three 125-pound and one 75-pound Unimac washers, and ten 125-pound Cissell gas-fired dryers. The facility processes approximately 660,000 pounds of linen per year for a population of 1000, including "anything that can be washed."
Although the inmates enjoyed learning how each piece of information impacted aspects of laundry room operation, real-life scenarios proved to be of key interest.
"I would set up the situation, say a 300 room hotel, and they would have to discuss the size of the laundry room, equipment needs, the number of employees required, and what kind of budget was necessary," said Andreoli. "At the same time, we would come back to the actual running of the prison laundry and talk about my own budget and why I do what I do with the amount of dollars allocated to me."
The seven graduating inmates, who continue to work for Andreoli in the laundry facility, have a better understanding of the processes their assigned tasks require. In addition, they are equipped to describe problems they encounter using formal laundry room terminology and are passing on their knowledge to other inmates. Many inmates expressed interest in pursuing further college education in laundry industry business management.
Consideration for a statewide launch of the program has been enthusiastically received by leaders throughout the prison facilities in Colorado, but may require up to another year or two to fully implement, largely due to budget constraints.
Meanwhile, Andreoli is gearing up for the second course at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility. The class is filled to its ten-man capacity and scheduled to begin in January, 2003.
"We'll open a lot of doors for these inmates upon reintegration," said Andreoli, adding that the inmates felt that they had accomplished something of significance for themselves.
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