New manufacturing program to help Amherst County inmates earn certification for work

Program only offered to women' organizers hope to open it to male inmates soon

By Magdala Louissaint - Lynchburg Bureau Reporter

AMHERST, Va. - A new program inside the Amherst County Adult Detention Center is helping female inmates prepare for life once they pay their debt to society.

"Oh, they have a lot of homework,” said Amy McCarty, the instructor at the jail.

Twice a week, six inmates at the Amherst County Adult Detention Center learn from McCarty about what it takes to earn their certifications in manufacturing. 

"I have two women who are very interested in going into welding. I think they will make great welders. Their attention to detail they have, but also their creativity,” McCarty said. 

The women who sit in the classroom are not only serving their time for their crimes, but also receiving a second chance. Cheri Almond, the release program coordinator for Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority, says it’s not about the charges, but about their behavior. 

"We've got a great group of women who are motivated to better themselves and their behavior is showing that. In addition to their correct release date, we chose them to be in the program," Almond said.

The new manufacturing program was launched last month. The inmates learn about mechanics, algebra, hydraulics and more. They also learn how to overcome challenges like their surroundings. 

"We don't have a chemistry lab that we can set up when we do our chemistry section. So we have done a section about gears, so to at least have something hands on, we brought in cardboard gears,” McCarty said.

In four months, organizers say the women will have the skills it takes to be qualified. And when it’s time to walk back into society, Rebecca Dillion, the adult education coordinator for Amherst County, who spearheaded the program, says their students are worth the risk to hire. 

"They know they have made mistakes and they are willing to pay the price. And they're want to get their life straight so when they get out, their life could be different,” Dillion said.

Copyright 2017 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.