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Priority LogoNorfolk, VA - The Norfolk Sheriff’s Office graduates its first automotive repair training class for non-violent inmates.

Launched in 2018, the Priority Inmate Technician Training Program is a partnership between Priority Automotive, Tidewater Community College and the Norfolk Sheriff's Office. The program is designed to help inmates study as automotive technicians while still incarcerated and re-enter society with tangible trade skills.

Monday, May 15th fourteen non-violent inmates graduated alongside more than 1000 other Tidewater Community College students.

"Everyone at Priority is so proud of these men for their hard work and determination in completing this rigorous program," said Priority Automotive President Dennis Ellmer in a news release. "We're also proud to finally call them Priority employees."

"The goal of the Norfolk Sheriff's Office is to make a difference in the lives of others," Norfolk Sheriff Joe Baron said. "Helping inmates gain an education and land employment before being released not only sets them up for success, but fills a need within one of our local industries. We are proud to participate in this program and thank Priority Automotive, Dennis Elmer, and TCC for their partnerships."

Under the program, the new graduates will now be hired on as full-time Priority technicians at one of 14 Priority dealerships across Hampton Roads. Upon release from jail, they will continue to hold their position and will receive the same benefits as any other full-time Priority employee. The participants will also have the opportunity to continue their education, earn new certifications and even earn an associate's degree from TCC.

"It's been a while snice I've really had a nice stable job, being a convicted felon and coming from the prison system," said Terrance Lee, one of the program participants. "Getting this opportunity with Priority and Dennis Ellmer it helps a lot of us to get back into society as people with a purpose."

Lee says he thoroughly enjoyed the program.  "I got up every day looking forward." Now he says he has more than a job. "Not just a job, a career." 

Lee's family, like families of many other program participants, were in attendance at Monday evening's graduation.

"Oh man I might start crying tonight. I actually might cry," Lee said. "The struggle is over now, but I'm here. I'm here where I'm supposed to be."

The Norfolk Sheriff’s Office is already in the process of selecting the next group of student-inmates to participate in the program.

 

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