SPOKANE, Wash.—A behind bars classroom is dedicated to teaching inmates skills in the booming technology industry.
Inmates at Airway Heights Correction Center can apply to take Aerospace Composites, a course taught in conjunction with Spokane Community College.
Part of that curriculum involves learning how to operate drones.
Drones have been part of the curriculum for about two years.
Program instructor, Mike Hunley said the program was added in response to the growing job opportunities in the field.
“I approach this program especially as an opportunity for transformation for them. Many of them sometimes because of circumstances have to find a new career. Many of them never had what we would truly call a career. But with these entry level skills into what can be living wage jobs, it gets their foot in the door. Gives them a little advantage. It also gives them the hunger to learn more,” said Hunley.
New programs must be signed off by the Department of Corrections, and drones specifically had both security and safety concerns that had to be addressed by correctional facility officials.
Officials said there have be no problems so far.
Data from the Department of Justice showed that educational opportunities behind bars can create more career opportunities for inmates after they're released. They said it decreases recidivism rates, and that saves tax dollars.
Hunley said he was amazed at some of the things the inmates passing through his class have learned.