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Allegheny County inmates to get training for jobs in energy industry

| Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, 12:14 a.m.

Allegheny County Jail officials will use a $614,000 federal grant to help prepare 100 inmates for jobs in the energy industry.

The Department of Justice gave the county money to train the inmates for work upon their release.

“One thing we know for sure, you cannot permit someone to complete their disposition, open the door and say ‘bye.' You have to prepare them for integration,” said Lorelei Stein, a professor of criminal justice and intelligence studies at Point Park University, Downtown.

The Allegheny County Jail Collaborative, a partnership of the jail, Department of Human Services, Health Department and courts, has implemented successful re-entry programs, Stein said.

A study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work's Center on Race and Social Problems found that the five-year recidivism rate for inmates in the programs was 34 percent compared to 52 percent who weren't.

“It is exciting to once again see Allegheny County rewarded for its efforts to reduce recidivism,” county Executive Rich Fitzgerald said in a prepared statement.

Federal job training programs, however, often tend not to reduce recidivism and have poor records of success, said David Muhlhausen, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy group in Washington, who studies re-entry programs.

Inmates are a unique and difficult population, often resistant to change, Muhlhausen said.

“It's easier to send a man to the moon than it is to change human behavior,” he said. “One is merely a technological achievement and the other is changing hearts and minds.”

County officials said they would ensure accountability of the program by tying future funding from foundations to successful outcomes.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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