Graduates of Building Trades Program at Duchesne County Jail Build Skills and Foster Greater Self-Esteem

A dozen students—under the supervision of the Utah Department of Corrections but housed in the Duchesne County Jail as part of the Inmate Placement Program—graduated from the Building Trades program offered through Uintah Basin Technical College (UBTech) on May 17. 

The 14-week program, a staple at the county jail for 30 years, provides the opportunity for individuals housed there to build affordable housing for the surrounding community while learning and receiving certification for skills such as framing, electrical work, plumbing and woodworking.

Graduates recently completed the first house built through the program since the program was suspended due to COVID-19.

Opening remarks were made by Captain Jeremy Curry of Duchesne County Jail, Tim Miller and Kenneth Pugh of UBTech, and focused on looking forward toward the future by utilizing and further developing skills learned throughout the program, with Pugh referencing the book “Be Your Future Self Now” by Dr. Benjamin Hardy.

After the graduates walked across the staging area to receive their certificates, Aaron K. Weights, President of UBTech, made closing remarks to encourage graduates to continue building upon the trust they earned by remembering three words he believes can take one far: Trustworthy, Kindness, Reverence. 

Weights ended with a poem to remind graduates that limitations can be self-imposed.


“You can do anything you think you can, and you’ll never accomplish more,

but if you’re afraid to try, there is little for you in store, 

for failure comes from the inside first, it’s there if you only knew it, 

but you can win though you face the worst, if you believe you can do it!”


One graduate utilized his woodworking skills to build his mother a jewelry box while still incarcerated. Others are looking forward to release dates and view the Building Trades program as a “stepping stone back into the community.” 

Braxton Smith paroled six days after graduation. He plans to get a job using skills he learned in the program. He also plans to attend a culinary arts program. Smith stated it “felt really good to be trusted again after being a prisoner and being stigmatized for so long.”

Another graduate plans to start his own business building sheds and cabinets.

Technical skills aren’t the only ones learned through the program, however. Miller with UBTech notes that it helps build confidence and self-esteem in those who participate, which he thinks can be “more beneficial than learning residential construction” for those incarcerated.

This sentiment is echoed by Pugh, an instructor with the program, who states that “a lot of these guys, all they need is an opportunity and greater self-esteem.”


Jade Watkin, Communications Office