SPOKANE, Wash. — Aaron Miller is working hard to stay on the right side of the statistic from the Department of Justice which shows that education programs in prison can reduce recidivism rates by 43 percent.
He previously served a 40 month prison sentence and recently graduated from Spokane Community College.
Graduating from SCC is just another step. Miller is headed to Eastern Washington University in the fall of 2017 to follow his newfound passion for mechanical engineering.
This morning, part 2 of my story on education within WA state prisons. Aaron Miller shows us what it looks like after release pic.twitter.com/Zif8r5uIGg— Rob Harris (@KREMRob) September 1, 2017
“Just making things work in a more efficient way, in a cleaner way,” Miller said. “Anything I can do to a machine to make it better and faster. It just floats my boat.”
The field of engineering takes a lot of dedication and a love of learning. Miller, 29, feels he now has that dedication. If you asked him when he was younger, he would have had a much different answer.
“I got into drugs pretty bad when I was younger, and I didn't finish high school, and I kind of lived that life for a few years. Working jobs, and losing them. It kind of developed into a life of crime,” Miller said.
He ended up in a Washington State Prison for a term of 60 months. He got out after 40.
“While I was there, I was given enough time and the opportunity to get a taste for education,” Miller said.
Miller left prison as a graduate of a welding program. While searching for a job within that field, a billboard for Spokane Community College inspired him to apply, despite not knowing how someone with his track record would be received.
“I got into here, and was completely honest about my story right from the get go with admissions, and registration,” Miller said. “I just said, 'Look I don't know what I'm doing, I just got out of prison. What can you do to help me?' And I was received with open arms.”
The Associate Dean of Corrections Education for Spokane Community College, Kevin House, has almost 40 years of experience in law enforcement.
“Education is probably the single greatest factor on helping someone not go back to prison,” House said. “After going through class, they get excited about the education. They want to do more education. And then of course they look forward to employment afterwards.”
For Miller, his education transpired into hope that others in his situation might pursue a similar path.
“It shows people that you're maybe not the same person that's on paper when they look at a criminal record,” Miller said. “Doing crime not only is monetarily a negative to society, but I mean cost of incarceration, legal fees. If you can turn that around, and educate somebody, and utilize an education, you remove a negative and you add a positive to the community."
“I'm not the same person I once was,” Miller said.