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Behind Prison Walls: Inspiring Wiring

CTE turns inmates into professionals
By: Rachel Zirin, Senior Reporter
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Folsom State Prison (FSP) provides numerous rehabilitative programs for their inmates to prepare and better themselves while in prison and when they parole. Amongst many skilled profession training programs, the Career Technical Education Electrical Construction program also prepares the inmates for life.

In this program, inmates with no training whatsoever come in and learn from the bottom up. They learn the basics and are trained into experts in the electrical construction field.

Vocational Instructor Spencer Wong said through the program, the inmates learn how to properly install electrical wiring around a home or building.

“Electrical construction is red-hot out there,” he said. “Two of my students that paroled became union instructors and are now making close to $160,000 a year.”

He said when the inmates achieve their certification, they really know their stuff and can’t wait to get out to get working.

“I have been blessed that they take this program very seriously to become electricians,” he said.

Inmate Lorchue Tao has been in the program for about two years. He said when he started he came in with no experience and was taught everything he knows. He said he knows he wants to become an electrician when he gets out.

Inmate Hung Nguyen, who has been in prison for a little more than 20 years, said he has found his passion.

“[Lorchue] is my sensei. We’re just trying to do something with our lives. To me, I want to learn new skills,” Nguyen said. “We get to do a lot of things you don’t normally see that goes into buildings, like putting up panels. It’s cool to see how it works. I have learned it isn’t as hard as it looks.”

Tao said he only has one year left, and while he worked dental lab before, he plans to change his profession to electrician.

“I want to do this. When we get out, we don’t have much,” he said. “To have a little finesse like this when we get out, it’s exciting. We did bad stuff in the past, but we’re here now trying to change.”