Magazine article Corrections Today

Instructor "Builds" Maintenance Crews

Magazine article Corrections Today

Instructor "Builds" Maintenance Crews

Article excerpt

For Robert Marrs, corrections actually was a second career. He started teaching in the Southern Illinois public school system in 1965, where he worked for 28 years. Five years ago, having retired from high school teaching, Marrs relocated and began teaching building trades at the Tennessee Prison for Women (TPW). "I found it easy to transfer from one environment to the other," he says.

Marrs teaches primarily residential construction technology (RCT) at the facility. Inmates then use what they've learned in the classroom in the institution's maintenance program. After the institution cut back maintenance personnel, Marrs set up a work crew comprised of six workers trained in the RCT program; these women handle the majority of TPW's maintenance request orders. The program has been successful in keeping the institution running at a functional level. According to Connie Seabrooks, TPW's principal, the program saved the institution $10,000 to $20,000 in maintenance fees between August 1997 and February 1998.

"I have a lot of skilled people who have come out of the program and done well," Marrs says. More than 75 inmates have graduated from his program. Many of these students are now productive citizens in the community, putting the skills they were taught in class to work. It takes a year to complete the program, which averages between 12 and 20 graduates each term.

The program participants are able to do quite a bit of labor. "I think people have changed their minds about what women can do," Marrs says. …

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