Studying To Be Electricians Leads Florida Inmates To A Commencement – WUFT Information
The wooden benches, the red carpet and the whispering crowd of 45 people almost make you forget that the chapel is hidden behind rows of barbed wire, countless metal gates and guards in all directions.
It’s the all-male Florida State Prison in Raiford, the same facility where serial killer Ted Bundy was electrocuted. But Thursday afternoon at the chapel was a feast day when 15 inmates were honored with their electrician’s certificate from North Florida Technical College.
Her class was the first in prison to complete the State Contracted Electrical Program.
“Our students have overcome many obstacles,” said Antonio Carlisle, the prison’s director of education. “You have shown great perseverance. Some were told they would never graduate. But today that turned out to be wrong. “
Thirty-year-old George Devard showed his professional credentials Thursday while working with Florida State Prison Warden Barry Reddish in Raiford. “I think as long as I get involved in the real world, I’ll be able to achieve anything,” said Devard. (Mary Katherine Delegal / WUFT News)
The program started a little over a year ago. Every weekday from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., students met in a room in the West Unit to discuss expectations, book work, tool safety, and application of skills. They also had access to the frame of a house where they practiced the skills they had learned.
“On the outside, people think that time stands still in prison,” said James Ingram, a 44-year-old student and graduate student. “But when we’re here doing things and using our time, things go on. That way, we’re not too far behind when we leave. “
The program “gave us all a sense of education, self-esteem, and an opportunity for the future,” Ingram said. The 750-hour program offered three categories of required course, all of which were required for graduation, according to Terry Arthur, the professional electrical professor who directed the program. This included a core curriculum, Electric 1 and Electric 2.
George Devard, a 30-year-old graduate, said the program works and recommends it to any inmate looking to improve.
“I think as long as I get involved in the real world, I’ll be able to achieve anything,” said Devard. “Sir. Arthur always taught us that.”
According to Michelle Glady, communications director for the Florida Department of Corrections, inmates were selected for the program based on a variety of factors, such as the upcoming release date, programming needs, previous training opportunities, and disciplinary history.
Of the 40 inmates who originally got their bearings, 20 held onto it and graduated. Three of them have already been released from prison, one was unable to attend today’s ceremony because he was sick, and the other chose not to attend.
The ceremony began at 9:00 am and was followed by an hour of family visit and refreshments.
When “Pomp and Circumstance” echoed from the speakers, the graduates entered the chapel in dresses with yellow and black tassels and black caps. They filled the first three rows of the chapel, listening to prayers and guest speakers before being asked individually for their certificates.
Lance Byrd, 49, accepted his professional certificate from North Florida Technical College Thursday. Byrd is a Florida State Prison inmate who will be released Friday and plans to use his new electrical skills to find work at home in Pensacola. (Mary Katherine Delegal / WUFT News)
Brad Bishop, adult and vocational education coordinator at North Florida Technical College, said the road to obtaining the certificate had not been easy for inmates, who had to stay focused through lockdowns, quarantines and power outages.
“This is not just above your circumstances,” said Bishop. “This is swimming against the tide, taking control of your education and changing the narrative of your life.”
Arthur is particularly proud of two of his students.
“When they started learning what was going on in the class, they turned around and started teaching, which is very helpful in a room of 20 people,” said Arthur.
One of these students, Lance Byrd, 49, received high honors.
“I just love helping people,” said Byrd. “It pays off for me to help some people who need more help than others.”
Byrd, who has been in prison for 19 months, will be given the chance to help others and apply his new skills starting Friday, when he is expected to be released.
Not only did the program give inmates an opportunity to learn a trade, it also proved they can accomplish anything they set out to do, Bishop said.
“Our graduates have proven that everyone is redeemable,” he said. “I greet these men as guides.”
At the end of his speech, Bishop addressed the group of men and said: “I urge you to move on. Leave this place and build on the new person you have become. “
Florida State Prison, in partnership with North Florida Technical College, hosted a graduation ceremony Thursday for 15 inmates who had completed an electrician course. (Mary Katherine Delegal / WUFT News)