Pictured from left to right are MDOC Commissioner Burl Cain, Rep. Kevin Felsher of Biloxi, and MDOC Deputy Commissioner Gary Young at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) campus in Perkinston.
Mississippi’s new Corrections Commissioner, Burl Cain, met with educators and lawmakers at the Perkinston Campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) this week to address vocational education courses needed to better equip prisoners to succeed in the workplace upon release.
House Corrections Committee Chairman Kevin Horan from Grenada and Representative Kevin Felsher of Biloxi convened a meeting with MGCCC officials and Commissioner Cain primarily to capitalize on the recent issuance of Pell Grants to educate prisoners. Federal Pell grants pay for college tuition.
Chairman Horan said, “We can improve getting prisoners ready for the outside world with these tuition grants. This is a game changer for re-entry training plus the CARE’s Act money will provide much of the technology.”
“These Pell grants are a win-win for the taxpayer, inmates, and their families,” added Rep. Felsher. “MGCCC is one of two Mississippi colleges and one of only 131 across the nation to be awarded the privilege to use Pell Grants. And it would be good if we could marry MDOC with our community colleges and help them with workforce development.”
Commissioner Cain said Mississippi has a dire recidivism rate. “Within five years, 77 percent of our prisoners return to prison because their work skills were not enough to keep a job.” He added that the Pell grant program is a huge opportunity to cut costs. “We need this training and skills in the prison to cut costs because not only do classes keep prisoners focused and calm, we need the training so they can train other prisoners to help us run the prison.”
Cain summed up the meeting by challenging MGCCC’s Dr. Johnathan Woodward and Dr. Cedric Bradley, along with Dean Brock Clark, to produce flexible training programs for prisoners. “Figure out how to get us in your classes,” the Commissioner said, “and we’re going to school.”
Cain said, “Prisoners do change. They get better. And that’s why they call this ‘Corrections.’”