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DuPage jail’s welding program yields first inmates graduating with ‘hope and purpose’

How often do you see a sheriff hugging jail inmates?

It happened Wednesday at the DuPage County jail as Sheriff Jim Mendrick congratulated the first graduates of a new and innovative welding-training programme.

“You guys are at the beginning part of greater things to come,” Mendrick told grads Ventrel Murphy and Raymond Andrews. “This is going to be viral. This is going to spread.”

They were two of three detainees who earned level-1 welding certification through the six-week program taught by First Institute Training and Management. Instruction was done in a trailer on an interior lot of the sheriff’s complex in Wheaton.

The slogan painted on the trailer: “Sparking Your Future.”

Murphy could have posted bail and been released, but he chose to stay in jail to participate in the program. He didn’t see the point of bailing out if there wasn’t anything positive waiting for him on the outside. Now, he has a new skill and intends to pursue advanced welding through the College of DuPage.

“This program was a good opportunity, so we don’t have to end up back in here,” he said.

When Andrews learned of the program, he thought, “I need to jump on this. I need a guaranteed job when I get out.” The support of the instructors, and of the corrections officers, “never ceased to amaze me,” he said.