The Simpson County Detention Center welcomed Kentucky Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Derrick Ramsey, who spent the day of June 11 visiting with jail employees, industry leaders and city and county officials to comprehend the Second Chance Offender Rehabilitation and Education (SCORE) program implemented nearly a year ago.
"I've been more than impressed with the excitement and enthusiasm. I got the chance to speak to this one young man at [Stark] Truss and realized he made a few mistakes growing up and he just wants another shot at it," Ramsey said.
Ramsey said he became intrigued by Simpson County's Detention Center's methods after he was introduced to similar programs a few years ago while on a visit to Missouri. After the trip, he alongside other state leaders was hopeful they could bring the concept to Kentucky.
Lieutenant Ashley Penn, program director for Simpson County Detention Center, said she and Brent Deweese, chief deputy at the Simpson County Detention Center, met Secretary Ramsey at an event and discussed an overview of the program and how the program positively affected the residents of the jail and within the community.
Deweese said he invited Secretary Ramsey to Simpson County to view the program in person and
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talk to some of the industries that partnered with the jail to offer jobs to the inmates.
"He took time to tour [selected] facilities and see some of the residents that work and talk to some while they were working and be toured by the residents," Deweese said.
Ramsey said he is thankful for the employers who were giving the men and women at the detention center a second chance.
"This is something that [Governor Bevin] wants us to be known as, 'The Second Chance State,'" Ramsey said.
The SCORE Program has been in the works for nearly four years and has been at the detention center for one year, Penn said. The goal for the program was to expand statewide, and Penn hopes eventually nationwide.
"This was never designed to be localized to Simpson County," Penn said.
Deweese said the program took a long time to implement due to legislation that need to pass in order for inmates to enter the workforce while serving their time. The legislation, known as Senate Bill 120, was passed in the 17th session.
Deweese said that in Simpson County's program, inmates are required to complete steps before they can move into the workforce, including the "soft skills" they need to succeed after being released. The inmates take classes in handling a bank account, applying for jobs, how to do taxes and how to find housing.
"We felt that those were important initiatives for the folks to learn before they got the opportunity to enter the workforce," Deweese said.
Penn said the program is providing skilled labor that is showing up to work on time, every day, who are drug free and motivated.
"We are providing a better quality of life, not just for our residents, but for their families," Penn said. "It is a ripple affect."
Deweese said many of the residents from the jail have been looked at for lead positions in their industry, which is a testament to the work ethic of the residents.
Deweese and Penn are currently working on the next phase of the program, which consists of Penn working with other facilities to prepare inmates for the workforce. The next phase also includes working with the local communities of current inmates to continue the education they receive as part of the "soft skills" in the SCORE Program.
"We are just very thankful to have the support that we have in the community and the jailer, the industrial authority, the chamber of commerce, the city and county officials have been fantastic to work with and the industries that work with us," he said.
Penn and Deweese hope they see the changes benefit not just Simpson County, but the commonwealth as a whole.
"It is just a great opportunity to have a man of that stature come and see what is going on here because he has the ability to drive initiatives that will benefit our local community," Deweese said.