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August 2, 2022 1:48 PM, EDT

Bureau of Prisons Expands CDL Training for Women

driver/BOP logoDriver photo by BanksPhotos/Getty Images

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Efforts are underway in federal and state-level prison systems to help inmates train for and transition into careers in trucking upon their release, with the Federal Bureau of Prisons expanding its commercial driver license programs to focus on women, and Connecticut working on a new driver training program at its state prisons.

“CDL training is a career field which is in high demand throughout the U.S.,” said Donald Murphy, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Information, Policy and Public Affairs Division, in an interview with Transport Topics. “Inmates who complete this training are gaining valuable career skills which afford them the opportunity to earn livable wages to support themselves and their families upon release.”

BOP has basic education requirements for inmates lacking a high school diploma or verified general educational development credential to attend adult literacy programs for at least 240 instructional hours or until a GED is earned. In addition, non-English-speaking inmates must take English as a second language instruction, according to BOP.

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“Over the past year, the BOP has doubled its CDL programs which offer the possibility of obtaining license, and is working to actively expand it over the next year. Additionally, there are 32 institutions, male and female, which offer the instruction portion of the CDL program,” Murphy said.

The six CDL programs that offer licenses are in federal prisons in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.

“The programs are in male facilities, but BOP is working to actively increase this offering bureauwide, specifically targeting female institutions,” Murphy noted. “The BOP only offers in-person training and is making a concerted effort to expand CDL programs to more inmates with a focus on women.”

As of July 23, BOP had 10,700 female (6.8% of its population) and 146,700 male (93.2%) inmates.

Although there are no specific requirements for inmates to participate in the CDL instruction-only portion, they must have a valid driver’s license and meet other specific state licensing requirements to qualify for the CDL state license program.

From Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, 40 inmates completed training resulting in a state CDL, Murphy said, adding that these figures do not include inmates completing the instruction-only CDL portion of the program.

The Connecticut Department of Correction, meanwhile, is preparing to launch a CDL knowledge training program that was created via state legislative action.

“We are working collaboratively with the Department of Motor Vehicles to provide the necessary resources to those who are interested in a truck driving career,” said Ashley McCarthy, a spokesperson with the state’s Department of Correction.

The program was created after Gov. Ned Lamont on May 10 signed a bill making CDL knowledge testing available to certain incarcerated persons. The program will be free for inmates who are re-entering society in six months and have no CDL disqualifications. Upon release, they must complete remaining CDL requirements, including the driving portion.

McCarthy said CT DOC is “eager to support eligible individuals who are preparing to return to the community with the space and technology for CDL test preparation and administration.”

The plan is to launch the program at one or two male facilities, and later expand it to all CT DOC facilities. Connecticut has 13 state correctional facilities, with one each for female inmates and teenage males.

“Enhancing an individual’s skill set while under supervision provides the opportunity for stable career opportunities in the community. Eliminating the gap between discharge and employment encourages positive re-entry,” McCarthy said, adding that CT DOC is encouraging qualified inmates to participate “and support our shared goal of lowering recidivism.”

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A company called Emerge Career is in line to provide the technology training platform and support. It also will offer a secure learning management system, said company co-founder Gabe Saruhashi.

After the inmates are released, Emerge will “immediately place students in one of its partner driving ranges or connect them with employers that offer in-house training programs so they obtain the full CDL license,” he said.

Former truck driver Sylvia Chess, Emerge’s in-house CDL instructor, has produced a proprietary lecture series preparing students for the CDL learner’s permit exam, Saruhashi added.