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PULASKI COUNTY, Ky. (FOX 56) – Pulaski County has taken a further initiative to become a state leader in re-entry programs for the incarcerated.

As of September 2021, the Pulaski County Detention Center received a $40,000 dollar loan from the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) to purchase an adjacent warehouse property from the Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital (LCRH), through a lease-to-own agreement.

The 6,000 sq. ft. warehouse is located behind the Pulaski County Detention Center where a gravel walkway will take inmates to their training program. (Danielle Miskell/FOX 56)

Two years ago, SPEDA President and CEO, Chris Girdler, made a phone call to Pulaski County Jailor, Anthony McCollum, proposing that the detention center create a program to teach valuable trade skills to the inmates, preparing them for re-entry into society.

“I said it’s funny that you ask that because that’s exactly what I’ve been wanting to do, and I’ve been trying to get community partners,” McCollum said.

SPEDA and the detention center launched the inmate training program in November 2019 and to this day, it allows eligible inmates to attend welding classes where they can earn a certificate, fair wages, gain job security, college opportunities, and a chance to re-enter society set for success, not recidivism.

An inmate’s re-entry into society has always been known to be problematic.

“In the past, we were just turning people out. Here’s your list of resources and if you need anything just call. And of course, we all know, that was probably wadded up and thrown out in the trash can before they were out the door,” McCollum said.

For McCollum, the failure to re-enter society was noticeably a generational pattern. He saw not only the same person return, but their children incarcerated as well.

“Now, here I am dealing with their grandchildren. And when I ran for office, I thought, we got to do something to break that cycle,” McCollum said.

The inmate training program has had 12 graduates so far. The first class graduated eight men and the second graduated four women.

Kayla Duggar (pictured left) is a recent graduate of the inmate welding program and plans to work at Hendrickson Trailor Systems, Inc. (Danielle Miskell/FOX 56)

One of those women is inmate Kayla Duggar. She’s been incarcerated for six months on charges of “unlawful access to a computer” at Walmart. Duggar never expected that she would fall in love with welding.

“It’s something that’s going to help us change our lives,” Duggar said as she talks about how the training program has turned her life around.

“With the welding program, it’s my first achievement in life. Something I didn’t think I could ever do because I never tried. And this is something I didn’t give up on, I kept going,” Duggar said.

Through a partnership with local businesses including, Hendrickson Trailor Systems, Inc., Duggar is going to be one of many inmates in this program who will be able to put her welding skills to work, earn wages, and even incentives.

Duggar said that the program is designed to where if she works 90 days and saves $500 dollars, she will receive aid with getting a car.

“I’m excited about it because I won’t be going to the streets with nothing. I’ll have an opportunity to have a life,” Duggar said.

In order to grow the program and see more success stories like Duggar’s, the warehouse will become a second location for the detention center where inmates in the program can conveniently walk to their workshops.

The warehouse is 6,000 square feet and is in need of renovations, which are expected to be underway with design concepts in Spring 2022.

SPEDA having loaned the $40,000 to the detention center was able to secure the lease-to-own agreement with the LCRH, and the detention center will have a 24-month period to pay off the loan, at no interest rate, to SPEDA.

McCollum said the detention center is financially secure and has the funds to pay off the loan amount within 24-month’s time, and no additional taxpayer dollars were required for the facility’s purchase or renovations.

The lease agreement was approved by Pulaski County Judge-Execute Steve Kelly in September 2021, and the terms of the lease agreement will be discussed Tuesday, Dec. 14, in the next fiscal quarter meeting.