Developing skills

First in the nation program helps California women learn design behind bars

Folsom State Prison is pictured in Folsom, California . (REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage)

Folsom Prison was made famous by Johnny Cash, but now the California facility has more to boast than just a great song by The Man in Black. Eighteen female inmates this week became graduates of California Prison Industry Authority’s Autodesk program, the only program of its kind in the nation that helps incarcerated women learn computer aided design to gain employment in architecture and engineering upon release.

Monica Oliva, an inmate who has spent 13 years behind bars for assault with a deadly weapon called the program a “second chance” with benefits she’ll take advantage of upon her November 23 release. “I can draft plans for any type of structure — buildings, homes and landscaping,” she said.

“It sounds crazy, but this is the best thing that could have happened to me,” said Caitlin Churchill, another inmate set for September 2016 release. “I have learned so much.” She’s currently working on a design project that will transform dried out prison land into a drought-resistant reception area. “We implement decomposed granite, some shredded bark, some rain gardens that actually collect their own water,” she said.

The Autodesk training program at Folsom is the only one of its kind behind prison walls in the United States. It began one year ago as part of California Prison Industry Authority’s Career Technical Education program, which boasts a seven percent recidivism rate compared to 54 percent of inmates who return to prison overall, according to KCRA Sacramento.

Read the full story at KCRA.

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