- Associated Press - Sunday, February 7, 2021

THIBODAUX, La. (AP) - Terrell Joseph has big plans when he gets released from the Lafourche Parish jail.

“I feel that I’m being given a second chance,” the 28-year-old from Raceland said while taking a break from his welding class Saturday. “They’re giving me a real chance to go back into society. I’ve been taking different classes and my credits go toward Nicholls. So when I get out I can go to Nicholls. With this class I’m getting qualifications so that it gives me a better chance to beat the odds.”

Joseph is one of 21 Lafourche inmates who are participating in a new partnership between the Sheriff’s Office and Fletcher Technical Community College to offer industrial certification classes to people who are incarcerated.

The program, which is being provided by a grant from Goodwill Industries of Southern Louisiana, offers classes for welding, forklift and automotive certifications. Inmates will also be offered other classes and certifications in the future including computer training, officials said.

“This is another outstanding partnership to further our mission and vision of the Lafourche Parish Correctional Complex,” said Sheriff Craig Webre. “We are continuing to find new, innovative ways to reduce recidivism. This program will provide the opportunity for individuals to better themselves while incarcerated in order to be ready for a productive return to society upon their release.”



Fletcher Chancellor Kristine Strickland said the program will help give inmates valuable job skills and reduce repeat offenders.

“We are proud to partner with the Lafourche Parish Sherriff’s Office in providing education and training for incarcerated individuals,” Strickland said. “We know that providing these individuals with opportunities to gain the necessary skills to re-enter our communities reduces recidivism and allows individuals to successfully obtain employment in high-demand, high-wage careers.”

According to the Department of Justice, 43% of people released from incarceration return to prison within five years.

Assistant Warden Capt. Karla Beck, who oversees the program, wants to give inmates the tools to change that.

“Our reentry team at the Lafourche Parish Correctional Complex works diligently to help incarcerated people prepare to re-enter society and become more productive citizens,” Beck said. “Education is one of the most effective tools in reducing recidivism, transforming lives and improving our communities.”

Inmate Dustin Becker has been incarcerated for the last eight months and is scheduled to be released in May. He said he hopes to use his newly acquired skills to land a steady job. In addition to welding, he is also learning forklift operating.

“I’m grateful,” the 32-year-old Thibodaux resident said. “I’m getting a chance to become a productive member of society finally, and will have a trade that I can use in this region. We want to thank Warden Beck and Sheriff Webre for the opportunity.”

Marvin Sevier, who is part of the Lafourche’s Transitional Work Program, said his newly learned skills have made him hopeful for the future.

“This gives me an opportunity to learn a trade,” he said “I’ll have something to look forward to when I get out. Right now I paint and sandblast but I can earn more money doing welding.”

Giving incarcerated people a fighting chance will benefit the entire community in the long run, Beck said.

“I’ve seen these individuals making true changes, and I believe that providing second chances enables them to create a new and better life for themselves and everyone around them,” she said. “I want to ensure we continue these efforts because our entire parish and residents deserve it.”

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