Program trains inmates to be carpenters, electricians after leaving prison

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) When 19-year-old Caitlynn Horton went to prison she was sentenced to five years. She says she was using drugs, and selling drugs to pay for her habit.

"Drugs, drugs, yeah it's bad, it's getting real bad," Horton said.

She's already been here at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center for 10 months and she hopes to get paroled in three more years. When she gets out, she wants to become a plummer and maybe get an apprenticeship with a union.

In the meantime, she's one of about 200 prisoners at Hiland who take one of the 40 to 50 education programs offered here.

The Department of Corrections says it spends $900,000 on education programs across the state with $230,000 at Hiland alone. Some of that money comes from grants.

Instructor Karen Jenkins says she knows some people are critical of money being spent on education programs, which include carpentry and several other labor industries.

"You know I've heard that and I have kids too but here is my thought," Jenkins said, "our kids can take advantage of scholarships and these women they cannot take advantage of scholarships while they're incarcerated, and this is the community that we are living with so we need to prepare them so they can be successful upon release."

According to the Department of Labor, the labor industry is a field where women in this state have the potential to earn more money. Following national trends, women in Alaska earn less than men on average, but labor is a market where there is potential to have higher wages.

Jenkins says she's also incorporating installation of solar panels into her courses and she's already had women hired for electrical work because of the experience they received in prison.

Horton says she won't be coming back to prison and she's excited about the experience she's getting while she does her time.

"It's just fun to build things and learn about new things that's what I like," Horton said.

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