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Department of Corrections celebrates first graduation for inmate welding program

The Gwinnett County Department of Corrections will host a graduation ceremony Sept. 28 for the first graduating class of its welding vocational program.

The ceremony, which will be held at the Gwinnett County Comprehensive Correctional Complex at 9:30 a.m., will honor the program's 13 graduates and feature speakers including Warden Darrell Johnson.

The 18-week program is offered through a partnership between Gwinnett County Corrections, the Georgia Department of Corrections, the Atlanta Regional Commission and Gwinnett Technical College.

The offenders enrolled in the program attend the class four days a week for six hours a day after completing their work detail. In class, students receive instruction that emphasizes basic skills, safety, and quality workmanship.

Upon completion of the course, they’ll earn a certificate in Gas Metal Arc Welding from Gwinnett Tech. Should they choose to return to school after their release, the credits earned during the course can transfer back to Gwinnett Tech as hours that can be used toward a diploma.

Warden Johnson said, “The goal of this program is to make it easier for offenders to succeed once they are released. When they have a skill like welding, it’s easier to find employment and become a productive member of our community, which reduces recidivism.”

This first class of graduates has maintained an A average. The participant selected as valedictorian earned both his GED diploma and the welding certifications during his incarceration.

Corrections received Workforce Opportunity Investment Act funding from the Atlanta Regional Commission for the welding program. The program is overseen by Vocation/Education Coordinator Shontese Renfroe-Wilson, who also offers job readiness workshops to offenders who complete vocational training.

Other vocational training offered by Corrections includes forklift licensure, ServSafe, building maintenance and computer science. The department also provides literacy and GED classes for inmates, with GED testing conducted onsite.

The Gwinnett County Comprehensive Correctional Complex is located at 750 Hi-Hope Road in Lawrenceville.