- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

FORT MADISON, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Department of Labor is aiming to prepare offenders to become productive citizens when they leave prison.

Executive officer at the Iowa State Penitentiary, Rebecca Bowker, says a new apprenticeship program allows inmates to gain skills that will make it easier to adapt and succeed in a trade when they leave prison.

The Daily Democrat (http://bit.ly/1X7eppT ) reports that inmates can learn cooking, housekeeping or cabinet making through the program. The cooking and housekeeping lessons are also services used within the prison.

“Our offenders do our cooking and cleaning,” Bowker said. “The cooking and housekeeping programs are designed to help those who will be leaving, and also improve the quality of life within the prison.”

Bowker says there are 39 offenders involved in the program and that the number of participants continues to grow. She says it’s difficult to judge the program’s impact at this point.

“We won’t know the actual impact of the citizens in the state for several years,” Bowker said. “However, another part of the program is based on offender behavior. Offenders have to maintain a positive behavior to stay on a certain program.”

Inmate Fortunato Lira has been involved in cabinet-making and plans to use his skills to get a job after leaving prison.

“That’s what I am shooting for,” Lira said. “I am more than willing to take that step. I want to be ready when I am going out the door.”

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Information from: The Daily Democrat, http://www.dailydem.com

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