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Alto prison showcases first welding program graduates
'We rebuild lives and we can create futures'
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Arrendale State Prison inmate Mary Barber shows a welded cross she has created Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017 during a Gas Metal Arc Welding open house at the prison. The prison offers inmates to participate in the six month Gas Metal Arc Welding program and receive a certificate of completion. Is part of the first graduating class. - photo by Scott Rogers

A sketch of Rosie the Riveter overlooks the stations at Lee Arrendale State Prison’s GAS Metal Arc welding shop, telling the participants to “Weld Like a Girl” in fiery letters.

Showcasing her metal artwork to passersby, Mary Barber said she had never welded before entering the Lee Arrendale State Prison program.

Barber was a member of the first graduating class of the prison’s six-month course in the GAS Metal Arc welding shop. The prison held an open house Thursday at the Alto facility.

Director of Vocational and Post Secondary Education Gary Lister saluted the staff and the graduating class for their hard work and the bright future ahead.

“One step at a time, every day we rebuild lives and we can create futures, and we do that based on the strength of our partnerships,” Lister said, lending credit to Gov. Nathan Deal and the legistature’s focus on criminal justice reform.

While searching three different job websites, Central Georgia Technical College’s executive director of re-entry services Brittany Lucas said she found 61 welding jobs in a 50-mile radius of the prison.

“This is a mission that we all enjoy and that we all have such ... fervent effort into this because we’re not only impacting you guys. We’re impacting the state of Georgia, your families, your generations to come and generations after you,” she said.

Warden Brooks L. Benton said the staff would like to improve on keeping inmates in the program.

“Once they get enrolled in this class, we try our best to put a flag on them so they won’t be transferred to another facility while they’re in a vocational class,” he said, adding that two participants had been transferred.

Tara Potts said her favorite piece was an owl with overlapping feathers made of scrap metal.

“I’ll definitely continue with the artwork,” Potts said, adding she would like to be a business owner.

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