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New mechanics program empowers juvenile offenders in Racine

Posted at 12:30 PM, Dec 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-09 15:50:56-05

RACINE, Wis. — To fight the revolving door of the prison system, some of our state’s technical colleges are working to empower offenders with the tools they need to succeed. In a new partnership with Gateway Technical College, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections is giving young adults brand new life skills that they can take with them into the future.

“When I first came here, like literally all my plans are non-positive at all. And now that I've done this, I realized I can actually do something. This is my first achievement as an adult. I’m really proud of myself and I have hope for the future,” said student Tyler Wells.

Nestled within the Racine Youthful Offender Correctional Facility, students at the mobile Mechatronics Lab spend 13 weeks learning the ins and outs of mechanics, building machines and self-esteems from the ground up.

“It changed my life. Even though I’m in a bad situation, it helped and changed my life so I don’t have to go back to that bad situation when I get released,” said student Lashawn Franklin.

Instructor JD Jones has spent nearly 400 hours with this year's graduating class. Some walked in with absolutely no experience, but once their sentences end, all leave with a special certification and an opportunity to make a difference in their communities.

“One of my personal goals is always helping to improve the community and this is one small step that I can do to do that,” said Jones.

Organizers say it’s a gratifying feeling to help students as they develop their skills for the future and they hope the program will continue for years to come.

“Being able to take a person, yes, that has a questionable past, but then being able to turn their skills around, being able to utilize their strengths to be able to do a job that is definitely family supporting,” said Jones.

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