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On Dec. 22, 2018, at the end of the 115th Congress, President Trump signed The FIRST STEP Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill that aims to reduce recidivism rates by improving educational opportunities for federal inmates and implementing modest sentencing reforms. 

Under the legislation, which gained support from liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alike, federal prisons will be able to establish partnerships with private entities, nonprofits, faith-based groups and organizations like ABC to provide incarcerated individuals will skills-based education. 

While serving their sentences, inmates will have an opportunity to learn a trade, which will help them secure a job in industries like construction and build a career following their release. This legislation is welcomed news to the construction industry that is facing a shortage of 500,000 skilled professionals.

Tyrone Ferrens, a graduate of ABC Baltimore and the Job Opportunities Task Force’s Project JumpStart, a construction pre-apprenticeship education program that provides hands-on training to low-income Baltimore City residents—including many who have been formerly incarcerated— voiced support for increasing skills education programs in correctional facilities. Citing his own experience with the criminal justice system during an interview on Fox Business and in an USA Today op-ed, Ferrens stressed, “The cycle of repeat incarceration is horrible, but the antidote is clear: A skills-based education that empowers those with the desire to turn away from crime to make good on that commitment.” Ferrens is currently a licensed journeyman electrician for ABC member company TEI Electrical Solutions in Frederick, Maryland.