Nevada prison to help inmates reintegrate into society

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You do the crime, you have to do the time. But what happens when a prison sentence ends?

Reintegrating into society can be difficult. The Vocational Village at the Southern Desert Correctional Center in Nevada is hoping to change that.

“A lot of people look down on you, not knowing that maybe you just made a mistake, and you’re willing to change. But if you don’t get that opportunity to change, then it’s pretty much impossible,” said prisoner Christopher Wynn, who was convicted for possession of crack cocaine. 

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Wynn will be one of the first students at the Vocational Village.

“Hopefully, they’ll help me further my life, so when I get out, I won’t return, cause this is my third time back,” said Wynn.

The Vocational Village was started by Hope for Prisoners, an organization that helps inmates successfully integrate into home and work life. 

Students must be within 18 months of their release date to participate. Luis Becerra, who has been in prison for two years, is planning to get out in July.

Three men talking at a table

“I’m just most excited for everybody that’s going to be in the program and going to get the chance to further their talents and skills and stuff. That way, when they get out, they have something waiting for them, and they’re not just stuck. That’s what I’m most excited about, seeing everyone becoming successful,” said Becerra. 

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The village will teach skills, including HVAC, electrical, plumbing, welding and driving commercial vehicles.

“If we do it right, whomever comes here, when they get out, they’ll have the right training to be functional and never have to come back here. No offense, but I never want to see them again,” said Southern Desert Correctional Center Warden Ronald Oliver.

New welding machines at the Vocational Village

The prison hopes the village will inspire inmates from other institutions to want to transfer to take part in the project.

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“Over the next four years, we will have the great privilege of serving over 800 individuals. So, at any given time, any given phase, they will have access to 18-20 different training classes, everything from substance abuse treatment to leadership development to help them change their thinking in addition to the vocational training,” said Hope for Prisoners CEO Jon Ponder.  

Officials said the village would not be possible without help from partners and the community.

Once the Vocational Village takes off in Clark County, the plan is to create one in Northern Nevada and eventually replicate the model across the United States. 

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