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State inmates get specialized training from MSU's Franklin Furniture Institute

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Several state inmates will be leaving prison with specialized managerial and manufacturing training from the Franklin Furniture Institute at Mississippi State University.

Twenty Mississippi Prison Industries Corp. (MPIC) inmate workers at South Mississippi Correctional Institution (SMCI) in Leakesville are enrolled in “The Management and Supervision of Modern Manufacturing” course. The three-hour night class began April 3, and will run for 16 weeks.

Thus far, 14 MPIC inmate workers at the Mississippi State Penitentiary have successfully completed the course. They graduated March 12 at the Vocational School.

The final class for 2014 will be held at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility this fall.

“We will continue to look for courses at our universities and community colleges so we can provide the work skills and the educational knowledge needed for our inmate workers to be successful re-entering their communities,” said Jeff Solari, business development coordinator for MPIC.

Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher B. Epps said courses like these are essential in preparing offenders for re-entry.

“This course helps MPIC to successfully fulfill its role to support economic self-sufficiency for inmates upon release and to reduce recidivism,” Epps said. “While MDOC is constantly assessing pre-release components, a new law taking effect July 1 reaffirms that we must assist offenders in finding employment opportunities among other things. I commend MPIC for getting ahead.”

Epps, an ex-officio MPIC board member, is referring to House Bill 585, the comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation arising from recommendations of a bipartisan 21-member task force, which he chaired.

The manufacturing class has been made possible thanks to a grant from the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA).

Ennis “Chip” Bailey, academic coordinator for the Franklin Furniture Institute (FFI), said the inmates are some of the best students he has had in more than 20 years of university teaching.

“The MPIC inmates at MSP were always prepared for class, and unusually well informed on current news and situations applicable to manufacturing as well as other subjects,” Bailey said. “They showed a keen interest in the leadership and economics sections of the training, contributing to open discussion and thus enhancing instruction.”

In addition to leadership and economics, the academic training also covers, management, modern manufacturing techniques and the culture of change required to manufacture in a global market.

The FFI, formerly the Institute of Furniture Manufacturing and Management (IFMM), has been at MSU since 2001. It uses university resources to increase international competitiveness in the furniture industry while enhancing the economic growth of the state and region.

MPIC, which was created by the Mississippi Legislature in 1990, provides employment skills and work experience to adult offenders in the state prison system.

“Offenders receive on-the-job training and work experience in a business production setting,” said MPIC CEO John Dennery. “In addition to reducing recidivism, MPIC’s mission also is to cut the cost of government operations.”

The nonprofit, self-funded corporation provides goods and services to state and local governments, schools, community colleges, universities and non-profits. MPIC also seeks opportunities to work with private businesses in manufacturing, assembling, packaging, dismantling and recycling services.

“Last summer, MPIC’s management decided that additional educational training should be offered in the program to enhance the inmate workers’ knowledge and expertise, which will aid them when looking for employment once released. The Franklin Furniture Institute course was exactly what we were looking for, and we will continue to explore these learning opportunities with all of our state institutions of higher learning,” Solari said.


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One comment

  1. Why would MDOC need a nonprofit to administer this program? Does MPIC plan to move furniture manufacturing onto the prison grounds, or will MIPC lease the convicts to manufactures there by displacing working citizens?
    Are the inmates participating in this program about to be released?
    And, to say that MPIC is self funded is a slight of hand, if not an out right lie. MPIC has been the recipient of millions of dollars in government grants over the last 10 years.
    Read MS PEER #571, then look up MS prison Industries on Guidstar.com. MPIC operated for over a decade with no record of lowering recidivism, or inmate job placement. However, they were able to accumulate $10,000,000.00 in assets and pay their past CEO almost as much as our MS Governor.
    While inmates do need some guidance, and perhaps vocational training, I question MPIC’s capIbility of being able to do anything other than benifit it’s own bottom line.
    Anytime the state tax payer is supplying a workforce with healthcare, housing, and food, so the employer can pay sub -minimum wages in order to compete with private business, it’s called taxpayer funded.
    Or, it’s just a untruth.

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