If they have done well in the class and haven’t been released from the correctional facility yet, they are invited to work as TAs and are paid for helping with grades and student questions.
“For anyone who has completed one of the programs, we’ve found that the rates of reoffending go way down,” he said.
Brickey recalls one of his students who was 21 years old and had a challenging time working with others. The collision repair instructor gave him a project to focus on—painting a bright red sports car. When the vehicle was unmasked and pushed out of the paint booth, Brickey said it looked impressive.
“Everyone was standing around and said it looked really nice,” he recalled. “I talked to him later and he said it was the first time in his whole life that anybody gave him a compliment about anything he had accomplished.”
Personal experiences like these are gratifying for Brickey who always had an interest in the automotive trade. When Walla Walla Community College approached him about teaching, he decided it would be a good fit.
“I like making a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “It’s amazing sometimes and it’s frustrating sometimes because you find out these guys get into trouble and it’s not going to turn out perfect for all of them, but there are ones that it does.”
With baby boomers retiring and not enough workers to fill their positions, Brickey said vocational training in state correctional facilities will help address the gap.
“It’s amazing the shortage of skilled people we have,” he said.
His advice to body shops looking for employees is to give inmates a chance.
Coyote Ridge Correction Center
Over the past two years, Douglas Leclair has taught an automotive services program at Coyote Ridge. Similar to the Washington State Penitentiary program, a full-service auto repair shop was established by Walla Walla Community College about a decade ago on the prison grounds where students work on vehicles throughout the week.
He currently has 18 students and six teaching assistants (TAs) who take part in the program. At Coyote Ridge, the main focus is on mechanical repair.