‘We’re learning from our mistakes’: New course prepares Baker County inmates for release

BAKER COUNTY, Fla. — Inmates at Baker Re-Entry Center are trying to better themselves once they’re released.

Whether that’s learning how to become an electrician or taking up warehouse logistics, they’re putting the time in, in the classroom.

Florida HIRES (Helping Inmates Realize Employment Success) is working with the University of North Florida, CareerSource Northeast Florida, Toyota, and Operation New Hope to end the cycle of incarceration for these individuals, saving tax dollars and protecting public safety.

Each inmate is in the class for their own reasons

“I’ll be returning to my children. I have 11 children. 7 boys and 4 girls,” inmate Michael Glover said.

Glover said he can’t wait to see his kids when he is released in a few months.

Inmate James Medlock is excited to see his fiancée once his release date comes as well.

“This is a person I care about and being able to support her and being able to provide and make sure we’re able to live comfortably is important to me,” Medlock said.

It’s important for these guys to get back into the world with a step-up.

Florida HIRES is making that possible at Baker Re-Entry through its inaugural Warehousing and Logistics class.

18 incarcerated men are spending four weeks behind the desk, taking the time to learn what they need to become outstanding employees.

The program takes inmates that are 6- 8 months away from release and does not discriminate based on the type of crime they committed.

Today, they’re getting their forklift certification.

It not only helps the inmates but also businesses looking for employees.

“There’s a really high need for this out there. I get calls all the time from companies that say let us know if there is anybody you have that’s ready to come and work with us because I need help,” Southern States Toyota Customer Service Sales Representative Joey Carpenter said.

Glover said he wants to do better for himself and his children.

“We’re learning from our mistakes. That’s why we’re taking these classes, to better ourselves so we can be better citizens once we get out,” Glover said.

Although no job is guaranteed after completing the course, Florida HIRES reps said their overall program has about a 70% placement rate after release.

“This is an opportunity for [inmates] to actually take a chance and learn how to do something different to become productive members of society,” Medlock said.