Inmate training program keeping Michiganders out of jail

“It’s been a blessing, I have no idea what my life would look like had I not come here.”
DTE Energy is training inmates at Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson.
Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 6:03 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JACKSON, Mich. (WILX) - Nationally, about 50% of inmates return to prison after release. A program at Parnall Correctional Facility has gotten that rate down to 7%.

The program teaches inmates how to trim trees and clear powerlines through a partnership with DTE Energy, which has pledged to hire all of Parnall’s graduates.

“It’s been a beautiful thing. Doors keep opening, and I’m gonna keep walking through them,” said program graduate Jeffrey Gunnells.

Inmates have to pass various screenings before they’re allowed to start training. The requirements include things like good behavior and eligibility for parole.

Gunnells went back to Parnall to speak with current students about the difference a skilled trades job can make. To him, the program was life-changing.

“People in prison are not bad people trying to get good, they are sick people trying to get well,” said Gunnells.

Corey Boerner is a graduate as well.

“It gave me a sense of I have something. I have a career it’s not just a job. It’s going to do the same for all of them. They got a second chance, I got a second chance to be successful and to be a productive citizen,” said Boerner.

DTE Energy Representative Terrell Lockhart played a key role in the program’s creation. He said it brought new life to Parnall Correctional Facility.

“There was so much energy in this prison, and I had been here a number of times, and I’m like ‘What is going on here?’ and one of the guards told me ‘Oh, it’s this program, it’s giving us so much hope,’” said Lockhart.

He said the program is a win-win. It’s providing second chances in a specialized field, while helping fill staffing shortages.

DTE Energy hopes other companies will work with the government to implement similar programs.

“It’s gonna change a lot for everybody,” said Boerner.

Read next:

Subscribe to our News 10 newsletter and receive the latest local news and weather straight to your email every morning.