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Johnson County nonprofit tackles re-incarceration by teaching trade skills

Construction worker
Posted at 10:29 PM, Jul 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-20 23:29:01-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan.  — Some people transitioning out of jail are getting trade skills to prepare for a productive life.

NCircle, a nonprofit, has partnered with Johnson County Community College and Johnson County Department of Corrections for the program taught at the college.

John Littleton, with Johnson County Community College, said in-demand jobs are sought for the people who go through it.

"Who is hiring these days? What are the jobs that are out there? What are the skillsets? And then what is truly an opportunity for someone that has a bit of a background to get into those jobs," Littleton said.

Lee Jost is the executive director of NCircle and said the program's goal is to provide an education with trade skills and life skills.

“The folks we work with, none of them would argue they’ve done some things that were wrong," Jost said. "However, they have done a lot of work to rehabilitate and now they’re ready to relaunch back into our community.”

Numerous trades are taught such as welding, construction, automotive technology, culinary training and more.

Participants in the program also learn soft skills such as being on time and working with others.

"They’re not coming back to the correction system," Jost said. "When that happens, we’re paying less in tax money to house them and rehabilitate them and we’re seeing more of them stable in the community and becoming our neighbors and our coworkers.”

Flash Scott is a participant in the program and explained the impact it's had on him.

“Society is so based on punishing people instead of trying to help them," Scott said. "This rehabilitation for me and recovery for me is great."

He explained that substance abuse led him down the wrong path.

“I was addicted to a chemical substance which led me down a criminal history," Scott said. "I made some wrong choices in life and I’ve been very selfish along my journey and my family has suffered for that."

Scott said his faith and family are inspiring him to pursue a new path in life.

“I do believe I’m doing this for myself, but I’m doing this for my family, because they believed in me this whole time and so I’m trying to reach deep and find that," he said.

Scott isn't the only person who's been impacted by the program.

“Exciting, but I want to go forward," Darren Howe said. "That excitement is there. On the other hand, you’re helping your own people out."

Howe is another participant in the program. He's learning construction.

“You want to have a job that makes you happy, to grow inside," he said. "I believe this program is doing it, because you’re learning the trade."

Howe said he plans to take his skills back to his native Montana. Rebuilding his community is one goal, but not the only one.

“My goal is to just get to rebuild my life again and look forward, not back," Howe said.