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Special Report: Department of Corrections Train Inmates for Jobs to Reduce Return Rate

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 01:16 PM CDT
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (KGAN) -- Luster Heights on the border of Iowa and Wisconsin is a work camp prison. It's a satellite program for inmates near the end of their prison sentence at Anamosa State Prison. The offenders are of a select few and they are taken to the work camp prison to learn skills before being released.

The state spends millions of tax dollars each year on Iowa's prison inmates. According to the Department of Corrections 96 percent of those inmates will eventually leave and at Luster Heights the re-entry program as it's called is designed to help them never come back and it trains them for jobs on the outside.

CBS 2 News Reporter Kelsey Minor visited the prison and spoke with inmates Joshua Scott and Scott Nelson. Scott and Nelson have both been in and out of prison on drug related convictions.

"When I was like 19 or 20 my dad was growing pot in our house and we got raided," Joshua Scott said.

Now at 27, he's ready for a better life beyond the invisible fence on the camp ground. Luster Heights isn't like any other prison in the state. There is no stone wall or electric fences. In 2011, the DOC reported that one inmate in three is ending up back in prison. The goal of Luster Heights is to change that number and teach inmates what they need to stay on the right side of the law.

Offenders live in dormitory style rooms and work in departments across the camp. Scott Nelson hopes the skills he learns will land him a job on the outside.

"I'm nervous about getting out there and just doing the right thing whether I will do it or not," Nelson said.
Women are taking advantage of the program too but at the George Hinzman Center in Cedar Rapids.

"I have applied everywhere, all types of jobs but I haven't gotten one yet," says Velma Whiting.

Whiting has spent the past 16 years in prison for a second degree murder conviction but good behavior got her a pass to the center where she is able to go into the Cedar Rapids area and already start to apply for jobs.

Velma, Joshua, and Scott all want to a new life after all they say they have been rehabilitated. The DOC says that they have tracked released inmates over three years since 2007 and the rate of recidivism has decreased. Special Report: Department of Corrections Train Inmates for Jobs to Reduce Return Rate

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