The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

February 19, 2010

Portion of ECCC program moving to Tecumseh

ENID — A portion of the Skills Center program at Enid Community Cor-rections Center will be moved to Tecumseh, a center official said Friday.

Oklahoma Depart-ment of Career and Technology Education announced Friday it is cutting Skills Centers at state prisons in Enid, Alva, Stringtown and Granite.

Eleven employees from the locations will be laid off and 200 inmates will be affected.

However, no employees at Enid Community Corrections Center will be affected, said John Lipsey, assistant district supervisor for ECCC.

The Skills Center program in Enid that is being moved to Tecumseh is the warehousing and logistics program. The program helps offenders at the center do things such as become forklift certified or receive Occupational Safety and Health Administration credits.

The training they receive at Skills Centers can help them eventually get a job with those tools, Lipsey said.

“They give the men some trades and allow them to be more applicable for employment,” Lipsey said. “(We) follow the individual after discharge and track them to make sure they’re working in the field (we) train them to do.”

Programs that will stay in Enid include the DUI program and the welding program, and partnerships with Autry Technology Center will remain, Lipsey said.

Lipsey said he suspects changes being made around the state are in response to continuing budget cuts.

“I assume it is to put the agency in a better situation financially,” he said.

CareerTech will continue to operate programs in nine other prisons around the state, said Dom Garrison, superintendent of the programs.

He said the programs have been effective at reducing re-incarceration rates. More than 90 percent of participants last year got jobs after their prison release. Most had never held jobs before, and 60 percent didn’t have high school diplomas, he said.

Phil Berkenbile, director of the state CareerTech system, said closing the Skills Centers is unfortunate because they save the state money in the long run by keeping participants from re-offending. “They give people hope. If you don’t have hope, what’s going to prevent you from coming back,” he said.

Berkenbile said the programs might be restarted if state revenue improves. The Skills Centers’ workers who lost their jobs took a buyout or were fired as part of a reduction-in-force plan to save more than $2 million. A total of 19 department employees took buyouts.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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