Program at correctional center gives inmates a medical workforce opportunity

SMYRNA, Del. – The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC) is giving inmates a chance to learn key health care skills that could help them eventually become licensed CNA’s. “I really just wanted to be a part of something greater than me, just having the opportunity to give back,” says inmate and program participant, Corey Johnson.

The Department of Correction’s Bureau of Healthcare, Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services is collaborating with Delaware Tech Workforce to offer its Home Health Aid Certification course to inmate Patient Companion workers. We’re told, selected inmates may be able to consider a successful life outside of prison once the program is complete. “You are a professional now, the way you carry yourself, the way your behavior is, the way your mentality is now has to be that of a professional,” says Sheree Thomas, an allied health instructor with Delaware Tech.

Those with JTVCC say, with the increasing number of aging inmates, this is a a great opportunity for all sides. “It became a game changer for me a life that allows me to have another ladder to climb to further my education as well as skill set,” says Jeffrey Crippen, an inmate and program participant.

Inmates go through an intense interview process to be a part of the program. We’re told the inmates must be classified to minimum security and contain a GED or High School Diploma. The inmates must have no history of sex offenses, convictions of abusing, neglecting, or mistreatment. They must have a negative drug test, no reports of self-directed violence or suicide attempts, and three years or more remaining on their sentence.

Once hired, they learn skills such as helping disabled or elderly inmates with getting in and out of bed, walking, eating, and oral hygiene. Inmates even learn to read books and letters to a patient, assist in letter writing, providing emotional support, and sit with a hospice patient during and end-of-life vigil. Something program coordinators say, can assist in becoming a licensed CNA when they get out of prison. “It actually taught me to be more open to people who are less fortunate and unable to do certain things for themselves,”

However, those with the program tell us, it’s more than just learning health care skills, it’s about providing them opportunities to get a job when they get out. “So you’ll be able to sustain yourself while you’re out there so there’s no reason why you should go back to the streets or rob, steal, whatever brought you here,” says Thomas.

Inmates tell 47 ABC, they feel like they have a real chance to turn their life around and not only make themselves proud, but their friends and family too. “I want them to see in person what I’m doing and how I’m growing as an individual and as a human being also,” says Jeffery. He adds, “We’re humans, we made mistakes but we are redeemable and this is just an example of how compassionate people can be, if we give them the opportunity to see something and do something different then what they’re used to doing.”

Once this class graduates they’ll be able to start helping elderly inmates in the facility. However, patient companions learn most of these skills to use outside of the prison. They will not provide medical functions, administer medications, or provide bathing or other intimate care.

We’re told although the program does ended on Thursday, with it being the first time it was implemented at JVTCC, they hope to bring it back in Spring of 2022.

The eight inmates apart of the program will graduate on August 27th, and upon release will have the chance to become home health aide workers.

Categories: Delaware, Local News