Welding class changing lives of Pasco Co. inmates

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A spark on steel lights the possibility that welding can be a new start for some who ended up in the Pasco County Jail.

Billy Reed knows first-hand. He has attended a welding class for about three weeks, working with steel in a world of razor wire.

"Hopefully when the course gets finished and we're able to get certified, we can take it on the streets and use it to our advantage," Reed said.

Troy Bowen is the teacher helping Pasco County Jail envision a new life for themselves.

"So far, none of the guys that have taken my course have come back [to jail]," he said. "I believe it's working."

Bowen teaches welding to selected, non-violent inmates. They work four days a week, 10 hours a day, earning experience, and even certification, which employers look for. 

"I got lucky," says Reed. "There was a waiting list and somebody put my name in there. I got blessed and was able to come here and give it a shot."

The class makes grills and smokers, which are later sold. The money goes back to inmate services.

Those in the class, however, are less concerned with the services inside the jail as they are with life after jail. With welding jobs paying between $15 and $20 an hour, depending on the employer and the welder's skill level, life on the outside looks much brighter for these students.

Reed said, "I want to use it when I get out. And hopefully not come back here."

Their new skills with steel can help put their days behind bars, behind them.

"It's nice to know that you affected someone's life in some way, in a positive way," says Bowen.