Inmates learn commercial driving skills Classes at three prisons have graduated more than 200 inmates

Inmate behind the wheel of truck driving simulator
RALEIGH

At three North Carolina prisons, inmates are getting behind the wheel and learning new skills in commercial driving, with aspirations of working as truck or bus drivers after their release from prison

Since early 2016, more than 200 inmates have successfully completed the commercial driving program offered at Polk Correctional Institution in Butner, Morrison Correctional Institution in Hoffman and North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh.  

Students learn to drive trucks and buses while sitting behind the wheels of sophisticated digital driving simulators, since putting inmates behind the wheel of real vehicles is not possible while they are incarcerated.  The classroom and driving instruction is provided by instructors from local community colleges.  Prison education officials are seeking ways to expand the number of available spaces in the program, to help meet the demand from inmates who want to take the class.

“The students complete the academic portion of the learning, and learn to drive in the simulator,” said Nornia Bullock, an administrator in the state prison system’s education department.  “There is significant interest in the program, with lots of inmates asking about the classes.”  

The program is offered at two prisons that house male inmates, Polk and Morrison, and at one that houses females. “The girls want a chance to learn too,” said Bullock. “They have an interest in jobs driving buses and limousines - and the training is applicable.”

The driving program is available to inmate students ages 18-22 and is funded through federal Title 1 education funds, which are granted to support economically disadvantaged students.  Many of the students participating in the driving classes are also taking basic education classes in prison, working toward their high school equivalency certificates.

Students who complete the commercial driving program in prison receive a community college certification in commercial driving.  After release from prison, they can pursue additional training that puts them behind the wheel of a real truck on the road, and completes the requirements to earn a commercial driver license.

Editors: A short video featuring the Commercial Driving program at Morrison Correctional Institution is available here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALU7FPF3rHk

 

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