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Inmates hired as interns for local manufacturing companies
Michael Franklin, Robert Dyche, Richard Matthews II and Cory Stroud, Newton County inmates, pose for a picture with Newton HIRE partners after receiving their diploma on Friday, Aug. 2. - photo by Caitlin Jett

COVINGTON, Ga. - The Newton Helping Inmates Regain Entry program, a six-week manufacturing-focused training through Georgia Piedmont Technical College, graduated four inmates Friday, Aug. 2. 

The Newton HIRE program was created by GPTC to enhance the technical college’s efforts “to strengthen the workforce pipeline for its industry partners in Newton County and to provide a re-entry point for local inmates currently incarcerated at the Newton County Jail,” according to a GPTC press release. 

The four inmates - Michael Franklin, Robert Dyche, Richard Matthews II and Cory Stroud - will begin working as interns in local industries. Old Castle, Clarion Metals and Beaver Manufacturing have agreed to hire the inmates as interns with the possibility of them becoming full-time employees in the future.

“If the students are offered full-time jobs while they are still serving their sentences, the jail has agreed to provide transportation for the students until they are released,” according to the GPTC news release.

“We look forward to working with you,” Clarion Metal Safety and Facilities Manager Chuck Berry said. “We look forward to getting you somewhere to give you a new start.

“Manufacturing is one of the bigger industries around this area - a lot of opportunities.”

Newton HIRE’s mission is to “try to make lives better here within this county,” Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown said.

“As I’ve said many times before, I have learned over the years of law enforcement services that we cannot just lock everyone up and throw away the key,” Brown said. “We have to start programs that will redirect those individuals, such as you, and put you back into the community, but where we have failed so long, we have put you back into the community without any hope. 

“Now we have started giving hope to you and many others that have graduated from the various programs that we offer here.”

Newton HIRE was created with a collaboration with Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, Action Inc., Newton County Jail and several other industries. 

“This is not a destination but just a milestone,” Action Inc. Career Coach Jim Dougherty said. “The journey continues. Thank you for the opportunity, for us, to participate in your journey.”

GPTC worked with the partners and companies to develop the curriculum and select the four inmates that would participate in the manufacturing-focused training. The four inmates selected were classified as non-violent and are considered “model inmates,” according to the GPTC press release.

During the manufacturing-focused training, inmates were expected to complete various courses held at the Newton County Jail:

  • CPR/First Aid training
  • OSHA 10
  • Soft skills training, such as attitude, body language, communication, workplace dress and interview skills
  • Mechanical, electrical and welding overviews
  • Forklift certification
  • Paid internship

GPTC President Dr. Tavarez Holston expressed that the four inmates are a positive example for the people around them.

“I believe when you achieve something this great - when you start a program and when you finish a program - that speaks to your character,” Holston said. “When other people see you start something, that’s meaningful and life-changing, you inspire them.”

The four Newton County inmates were given a moment of reflection to express their thoughts on the Newton HIRE program:

“This is really a wonderful thing for inmates here, and I appreciate Georgia Piedmont College and everybody that was involved,” Dyche said.  “Everybody who goes through this program will be successful, and we’re going to make sure we’re a success.”

“This is very helpful, and I learned a couple things myself,” Matthews said.

“I want to thank the jail for letting me be a part of the program,” Franklin said. “It’s a lot I learned.”

“I did learn a lot,” Stroud said. “Just add onto my future and try to be a better person. I just want to say thank you.”