Ross Correctional Institution (RCI) may seem like any other prison. But it’s different.

Located in Chillicothe, Ohio, RCI has a unique program designed to decrease the number of inmates returning to prison. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than half of all inmates return within three to five years. One big reason is a lack of resources. RCI is trying to combat this by helping inmates learn trade skills they can use to get a job outside of prison and earn a decent wage.

“I want to thank RCI and AEP Ohio for letting us take part in this project,” said inmate Rodney Delawder. “This is something all institutions should participate in.”

RCI has developed an apprenticeship program that teaches inmates how to be an electrician, a plumber or a carpenter. These apprenticeships are highly desired within the prison. Inmates have to apply, meet the criteria and complete an interview. The inmates who are selected are top-notch and are trusted with access and tools unavailable to others.

An employee of the prison heard about AEP Ohio’s energy efficiency program and brought it to the attention of the prison. RCI called AEP Ohio and, after some preliminary discussions, a partnership was born. Not only was the prison able to achieve significant energy savings by installing LED lighting but the apprentices received valuable experience that put them on a path toward more advanced technical skills.

“Everybody in here is doing time. And that’s just what you got – time,” said Butch Cooper, construction superintendent at the prison. “It’s what you do with it that means the world, that changes the world. The apprenticeship program provides offenders an opportunity to not just do the time but to come in and learn something, a trade, a skill, that will help them go out in society and be productive again.”

Many state institutions have taken advantage of AEP Ohio’s energy efficiency programs but RCI took it to a new level. The collaboration has been a big success for everyone involved, and that’s especially true when it comes to the education of inmates like Rodney Delawder.

“I want to thank RCI and AEP Ohio for letting us take part in this project. It’s amazing to me how much is saved by just changing lightbulbs,” Delawder said. “[The program] allows offenders to learn while saving money for the Department of Corrections. This is something all institutions should participate in.”

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