DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — Triumph Gulf Coast board members voted Friday to approve $2,217,965 toward technical education and certification training programs for Walton County inmates.
The board, which manages funds from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement, also awarded money to Franklin, Gulf and Bay counties that will go to workforce training and entrepreneurial projects.
Partnering with Emerald Coast Technical College, Walton's inmate education program will use the money to build a new driving pad for commercial driver training in addition to welding certifications and computer technology classes. Members of the Sheriff’s Office will also be able to take classes to earn computer technology certifications.
“We want to be able to expand and provide workforce training to allow men and women to be able to go to work in fields that are needed in region,” Sheriff Mike Adkinson said. “We are looking for things that are vibrant and that fit into today’s economy. We are trying to evaluate what the capacity of the inmates are and what we can provide to best equip them as a smart use of taxpayers money.”
Adkinson said the inmate education program is designed to help equip those recently released from jail with a useful trade so they can gain employment and break the cycle of re-incarceration. The results of the inmate education program will be studied by Florida State University.
“We are engaged in a transformational approach to breaking the cycle of incarceration,” Adkinson said. “We think there is a cycle involved in this, and we started looking for programs that make a difference. It’s not a conservative or liberal idea — it’s good business.”
From inmates gaining their G.E.D.s to continuing education in professional certification programs, Adkinson said he hopes to expand the inmate education program rapidly over the next two years.
“We are going to pull in 350 industry-accepted certifications in the next two years, and we are going to work to exceed that,” he said. “These are inmates that have earned a spot and shown a willingness and fit the program.”
Triumph will provide nearly half of the funding toward the $4,451,565 project. More information about Triumph Gulf Coast Inc. is available at www.myfloridatriumph.com.