Hunterdon County Vocational School District receives $ 300,000 to strengthen Edna Mahan program


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TRENTON – Prisoners of Edna Mahan will have more opportunities for vocational training thanks to a recent state grant.

The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development recently awarded $ 300,000 to the Hunterdon County Vocational School District (HCVSD) to continue its training program for women incarcerated in construction work, according to a press release from the district.

The money will be used to expand the HCVSD’s NJBUILD program at Edna Mahan Women’s Correctional Facility in Union Township (Hunterdon), which trains women in various construction skills.

In June 2016, the state awarded the district $ 100,000 to begin preparing women incarcerated in Edna Mahan for construction work. After the publication of the first year results, the state renewed the funding that allowed the HCVSD to continue the program for the 2017-18 academic year.

While the latest grant, which came into effect on June 1, allows new participants to register for training for the 2018-2019 academic year, the bulk of the funding will support more advanced construction-related training for the 45 women who have already completed the introductory program. The first session of this advanced option begins on October 29.

READ: Edna Mahan’s guards charged with misconduct, sexual assault

READ: Edna Mahan’s guard sentenced to 16 years for sexual assault and official misconduct

“Women who had previously completed 160 hours of training in one of the first two years of the program can now spend more time learning skills in the fields that interest them, whether it is carpentry or plumbing or otherwise. thing, ”Christina Shockley, who oversees the NJBUILD program as the adult and continuing education coordinator at HCVSD, said in a statement. “This next step will help them better explore their career options and acquire the skills they will need to be successful in the workforce. “

Programs

The 2018-19 NJBUILD program will not only offer advanced training, but also new forklift driving training taught by high-tech simulation. Using joysticks and video monitors, trainees can get a clear idea of ​​the work and train as if they were on a construction site.

With the addition of forklift training and advanced options, NJBUILD participants now have the opportunity to complete a total of 580 hours of construction training, the release said. Entry-level training prepares participants to receive general OSHA 10 certification, and additional offerings give participants the option to add both OSHA 30 and forklift certifications.

“This program has been a real team effort, with the help of guest speakers who shared their professional wisdom with the participants, passionate instructors who cared about each participant’s success and a dedicated staff who worked to achieve funding, determining program logistics and monitoring participants’ progress, ”said Kimberly Metz, HCVSD Superintendent.

Participants in the first two years of the NJBUILD program covered a range of topics including carpentry, masonry, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, Placoplâtre and patching, roofing and painting. They used the skills learned to build a shed throughout the program. In addition to training in construction-specific skills and achieving general OSHA-10 certification, participants also received workforce preparation instructions, including writing resumes, maintenance tips and more.

“I am delighted that the state has recognized that we have a program in place that is producing real results. We have program participants who have been released from Edna Mahan and are on their way to becoming carpenters and welders. A former participant is currently taking two courses at Rutgers University, and a job awaits her as an OSHA instructor upon completion, ”said Tanya Nalesnik, Assistant Business Administrator and Grants Coordinator for HCVSD.

Prison bills

News of the grant, which was announced in late September, comes as the state Senate passed a bill to tackle sexual abuse in prisons.

On September 27, the Senate approved two bills sponsored by Sen. Joe Cryan (D-20th District) and Senator Linda Greenstein (D-14th District) that would set limits on gender strip searches by wardens. prison and establish reporting requirements. for prison officers in the event of suspected abuse.

The bills were drafted following a public hearing by the Senate Committee on Laws and Public Security, which heard testimony from former prisoners of Edna Mahan describing the abuses they suffered from the share of prison officers.

According to the press release from the New Jersey Senate Democrats, the abuses “were far more serious than correctional officials publicly acknowledged and continued after complaints were filed.”

“Sexual assault by prison guards is a despicable abuse of power on the part of those with an oath of duty to the law,” said Cryan, who was previously the Sheriff of Union County. “This is predatory behavior that exploits the vulnerabilities of those who are confined with little ability to defend themselves. It shouldn’t be allowed, it shouldn’t be ignored, and it shouldn’t be excused. “

“It has been a stain on the reputation of New Jersey correctional facilities,” Greenstein said. “The abuse was bad enough, but failure to stop it and hold offenders accountable for so long shows that the system needs to be reformed. Victims should not be afraid to report these crimes and when they do, they should be taken seriously. “

The repeated incidents have resulted in criminal charges against seven prison officers and prison staff so far and have been the subject of state and federal investigations as well as criminal and civil prosecutions.

One of the bills, S-2522, would require the commissioner of corrections to establish a policy strictly limiting gender searches and surveillance in state correctional facilities. The policy would require that a strip search or body search of an inmate be carried out by an officer of the same sex specially trained to conduct such searches, with the exception of emergencies.

The other measure, S-2521, would require reporting of inmate abuse by correctional workers and create a reporting and investigation program. Any employee who has reasonable grounds to suspect that an inmate is or has been mistreated by another worker would be required to report it. The bill would also establish an inmate abuse reporting program for state correctional facilities.

Both bills were passed unanimously by the Senate and are awaiting a vote in the State Assembly.

Editor-in-Chief Nick Muscavage: 908-243-6615; [email protected]

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