Georgetown detention center’s boat-building program aids inmates’ reintegration

GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. (WPDE) — At the Georgetown County Detention Center, one program is looking to help people who have been incarcerated reintegrate into society.

The concept is simple — teach them trades so they’ll have a fair shot at holding a job and making it in society.

However, the way they’re doing it is quite unique.

In a workshop outside of the Georgetown County Detention Center, about a dozen inmates are taught carpentry skills, but not in the traditional sense.

They’re doing it by learning how to make a boat.

“Even if they don’t go into boat building you know as a full-time profession for example. They’re learning very obvious transferable skills. They’re reading diagrams there learning to measure cut angles those kinds of things. In the boat assembly project,” said Jonathan Branch the Director of Reentry Services at the Georgetown Sheriff’s Office.

[An inmate sands a boat. (Mike Owen/WPDE).]

The program’s goal is to give inmates workplace training to acquire the skills they’ll need to be employed once they’re released.

“It’s really important because people end up in prison because of the circumstances around them and a lot of times they don’t have opportunities for stable employment that pays a livable wage,” said Branch.

The boat-building project was inspired by the Georgetown Wooden Boat Show, and a winning boat builder from that show, who wanted to give back to his community.

“These guys need a little more skill to get into their back pocket when they get out, and I needed to get moving more, I suppose. I’m a retired builder. And I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m really enjoying it, and I think they are too,” said Skip White, a retired shipbuilder.

Enjoy it they do.

[An inmate gets instruction on using the rip saw. (Mike Owen/WPDE).]

The inmates said it gives them hope for the future. One said this program has changed the trajectory of his life.

Yet, they don’t just learn boatmaking, inmates have an opportunity to learn lots of helpful skills.

“We offer training in trades like HVAC, plumbing, electrical wiring, things of that nature. Landscaping even. A lot of that training we do through the county’s facilities services department,” said Branch.

To qualify for the program, inmates need to meet certain requirements, like good behavior.

There are normally anywhere from one to two dozen men at a time participating in the program.

Since it was founded in 2007, more than 200 have completed it.

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