As female inmates of the Cumberland County Jail in Maine seek to transition to life outside the prison walls, they are looking to welding as a means of forging a new path. Thanks to a lab set up at the Central Maine Community College (CMCC), female inmates are being afforded the opportunity to learn the trade, preparing them for life after prison and providing a head start on a new career.
The welding lab was established at CMCC in 2018, with the intention of offering inmates an opportunity to learn and practice welding in a professional environment. According to CMCC, the lab has thus far provided a foundation for “technical education, job preparation, and career development” for the inmates, who are referred to as “students”. Through the lab, inmates have been able to learn metal fabrication, blueprint reading, and safety protocols.
The lab was made possible through a partnership between CMCC and the Maine Department of Corrections. “It’s an opportunity that they might not otherwise have,” said CMCC President Scott Knapp. The lab has been receiving considerable attention in the community, with many seeing it as a sign of progress.
The welding lab is an especially pertinent opportunity for female inmates, many of whom lack the resources and education to transition to a life outside of prison. Welding is a highly technical trade, and the ability to learn it in a professional setting provides these inmates with a valuable skill that can be put to use upon release.
The lab has been credited with providing inmates with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. According to one of the instructors, Shannon O’Brien, “The women who have come through this program have been so motivated and have taken such pride in their work.”
Not only does the lab provide inmates with a chance to learn welding, but it also allows them to make connections with people from the community, as well as other inmates. This is especially important for inmates, many of whom have few contacts outside of the prison walls.
The welding lab at CMCC is a major step forward for inmates in Maine, and it is hoped that similar programs will spread to other correctional facilities in the state. Through this program, female inmates are being given a chance to start a new life and pursue their dreams.
“It’s a great way to provide women with a future,” said Knapp. “A future that they wouldn’t otherwise have.”