When many people think about prisons and jails, they immediately think of institutions where people are sent as punishment for their crimes – which is true, in part – but one of the main intentions of prisons that’s often overlooked by the general public is the rehabilitation aspect of it. The real goal and intention of prison is to help those who have been sent there to reform their behavior and to prepare them to lead a life that’s better than the one they lived prior to being sent to jail once they’re released. Jail isn’t just a punishment; it’s a second chance. It’s an opportunity for inmates to educate themselves, learn new skills or trades, and to give back and contribute to society in a meaningful way.
One prison that’s done an incredible job at focusing on inmate reform is the McCracken County Prison in Paducah, KY. Through the Phoenix Project, they have provided inmates with vocational training so that once released, they have more career opportunities. They have had incredible success in the few short years that the program has been in operation. The Phoenix project has connected with several local businesses that were integral in their success, and we at Graceland Portable Buildings are honored to be one of the companies who has partnered with the project.
What is The Phoenix Project?
The Phoenix Project was launched by McCracken County Jail in 2019 and was the brainchild of Jailer David Knight. The intention of The Phoenix Project is to help inmates reunite with their families, to reduce the rate of recidivism (falling back into criminal behavior, and ending up back in jail), to help inmates to find employment after being released from incarceration, and to help local industries by providing them with a skilled and educated workforce. The program derives its name from the mythological bird, the phoenix, who is able to rise from its own ashes, and that’s a metaphor that perfectly aligns with the goals that the program has for its graduates: the ability to rise from their own ashes and have a better future.
During the program’s inaugural year in 2019, they offered vocational training for inmates in welding, deckhand school, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.) By 2020, just before the global pandemic took hold, they had 30 graduates. Another class that had 19 graduates only had 3 return to McCracken County jail, and that low rate of recidivism – 15.8% to be exact – is considered to be a success as it’s a far cry from the 80% rates of the past.
The First Female Graduation
In July of 2022, The Phoenix Program had its first female graduating glass. From 2019 until 2022, all the program participants and graduates had been all male.
The female graduates underwent 60 hours of training as electricians’ assistants, a course that was taught through the West Kentucky Community and Technical College. While the program needed to be taught at the jail, there were initial concerns about having adequate space to hold the training in. That’s where we stepped in.
Our mission and values align with the goals of The Phoenix Program, and we believe that everyone deserves a second chance. With the right resources and opportunities, that second chance is more likely to succeed. We saw the need that the McCracken County Jail had for more space, and we proudly donated one of our amazing and spacious portable buildings to the project, a 16X40 building that we built and brought to the jail annex at the beginning of May.
Part of the success of the program is thanks in part to local partnerships. A huge problem for many inmates once they’re released is a lack of resources and a lack of a support network. One local partnership they have to help provide resources and support is Kentucky Care, which provides counseling for people who have just been released from jail, and Goodwill Services. They also have several local businesses who have committed to hiring former inmates upon release. The local partnerships are what make The Phoenix Program the success that it is, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to help with the program’s initiative by providing a space for them to complete their training.
If you’re interested in learning more about Graceland Portable Buildings, The Phoenix Project, or are interested in acquiring your own portable building, contact us today!