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"Hidden workforce" learns valuable IT skills behind bars

Monday, February 25, 2019

LEXINGTON, Okla -- Behind the razor wire and past the prison bars, you will find a hidden workforce. Inmate, Ron Burnett said, “I really wanted to get out and be part of the family, I wanted to always be with. I want to continue on with my life. That’s when I came to work at OCI. I knew that was the way to go.”

“Oklahoma Correctional Industries” at Joseph Harp is the heartbeat of information technology.

Prisoners here handle all the IT business activity for OCI – accounting, inventory, manufacturing, and sales. “OCI is helping me a lot. When I came here, I didn’t even know how to type,” said inmate, Clifford Webb.

These men are learning everything from data mining to web development.

Paul Huckabay has spent 3 decades behind bars. But, he’s found purpose helping younger inmates succeed. Huckabay said, “Other people helped me to learn what I’ve learned. I’m only doing what I know is the right thing to do, to help other people.”

He’s mentoring people like Jacob Tyre who said, “The people around me, the knowledge, the resources, this stuff is priceless. You can’t pay for an education like this. Especially growing up and coming from the places I came from. I would have never imagined doing the things I’m doing now. And now that I have this opportunity, I’m taking advantage of it. I don’t want to let this slip through my fingers.”

It’s a valuable education in work ethic, technology, and teamwork that can redefine their lives. According to inmate, Alexis Osborn, “I think I’ve learned more than anything to value relationships, people. Before I came in I took a lot of stuff for granted.”

The most valuable commodity produced at OCI is well trained, exceptionally motivated inmates, poised to one day become productive citizens. Burnett said, “I may not get out soon. But when I do get out I have something to fall back on. And that’s all because of OCI.

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