Pat Jones’ life has turned out drastically different than he thought it would. The 43-year-old spent most of his adult life in federal or state prison. At one point during his most recent incarceration Jones says he knew he to do something different, or he would probably come back to prison after release.
“It took me so long to figure it out and get my head straight and I was just tired of being incarcerated,” said Jones. “I knew that I would just resort back to making easy money after I was done. I had to do something to get some sort of training.”
Jones entered the Davis Applied Technology College (DATC) courses offered to incarcerated individuals at the Utah State Prison. The courses include technology programs for Automotive, Welding, Machine, and Business Technology, and a Culinary Arts program. Utah Department of Corrections partners with DATC, Uintah Basin Applied Technology College, Snow College and Dixie College to certify inmates in vocational trades.
After finishing both an Automotive Technology program and a Welding Technology course, Jones’ life following his release in June 2016 is completely changed. Today, you can find him on the job site, “doing anything from layout, to cutting gas pipe, running copper for water or anything really,” making more than $18 per hour. It’s a livable wage, which is an essential component for post-release success for many former offenders.
“I learned that it’s up to you if you want to come back or not,” said Jones. “You can get an education and training while you are in prison. If you’re going to be unproductive, you’ll just be there longer.”
Jones’ success doesn’t come as a surprise to his former instructors in the DATC program. Dexter Thayne works at the correctional facility teaching both hands-on instruction and classroom-style courses. He recalls Jones pursing opportunities within the class and also following trends in the welding industry, which allowed him to fine tune skills he would need to pursue a career after release.
“Patrick’s success in the welding program and now in industry can be attributed to his approach to both,” said Thayne. “Patrick didn’t just want to graduate, Patrick wanted to get all he could out of the program. He now brings that effort to industry obtaining certifications and additional education. He continues to invest in himself, which will continue to pay dividends.”
When he’s not on a job site, Jones is in the classroom finishing up the courses needed to become a journeyman welder. Jones left prison at step three of the ten-step journeyman process and joined the trade’s union. Once he finishes required schooling in about three years, he’ll likely make upwards of $33 per hour. The union also offers pension, benefits and helps fund the cost of his additional college courses.
The DATC program can serve up to 220 inmates. The curriculum is the exact same program as offered at the college’s main campus in Kaysville. Program Manager Mary Crawford says Jones is proof that incarceration doesn’t have to define a person and that education and training programs can make a significant difference in a person’s success after release.
“In my seven years working at the DATC, I have only had a handful of students who have brought the passion and dedication to their studies that Patrick did,” said Crawford. “Patrick refused to be defined by his situation. This and his dedication to improving himself have led him to a great places.”
Jones says he is certain he is never coming back to prison, thanks to the DATC program and the path he’s on today. And he shared one other major achievement.
“My family is extremely proud,” he said.
-May 12, 2017