WDOC tells the story of an inmate learning new skills while incarcerated
Many Wyoming citizens are unaware when an individual is sentenced to the Wyoming Department of Corrections (WDOC) they are provided many opportunities to gain skills and education that are designed to help them succeed upon release back into their communities.
Taran Schlegel is one of the people who took advantage of a couple of the programs.
Schlegel was sentenced for drugs and larceny but with good behavior, he earned his way to the Wyoming Honor Farm (WHF) in Riverton. WHF is a minimum security facility with a program focus on agriculture with a hay growing operation that supports a cow calf operation and wild horse training/adoption program. Schlegel began in the agriculture program when he first arrived but then learned about the commercial sign shop that was a component of the Correctional Industries Program. This shop produces an array of signage types to include traffic signs using contemporary tools, software and equipment. The sign shop can make signs for private sector sign companies as long as the signs are used within Wyoming as well as for other state, county and city governmental agencies.
A WHF staff member informed Schlegel of the position available in the sign shop. Schlegel decided he wanted to use his time there to learn the process of making signs in hopes of obtaining a job once he was released. Schlegel took it upon himself to seek out the officer in the sign shop, asking him how to apply for the position. After being interviewed, he was hired a week later.
Schlegel had an edge on the position as he had Computer-Aided Design software training from high school. Because of this and his hard work ethic, he became the lead position in the sign shop. He excelled in the attention-to-detail requirements to make the signs governed by federal regulation and took pride in the fact that many of the signs were to be placed along Wyoming highways and interstates.
When Schlegel was approximately one month away from his release from WHF, he inquired about the possibility of working for Wyoming Signs, a business located in the community of Mills, outside Casper. Due to the nature of his sentence, Schlegel still had a court ordered program to complete but wanted to secure a job position as much as he could before release.
Once Schlegel was close to finishing his programming, his mother reached out to Enoch Hart, the owner of Wyoming Signs, to inquire how her son could apply for a position.
After going through the application and interviewing process, Schlegel was released from custody and started at Wyoming Signs. According to Hart, Schlegel is a dependable employee who does a great job and works hard.
Schlegel is also active in his local community, volunteering at Highland Park Church where he produces music and helps with the sound and lighting. He has plans to go to college while employed at Wyoming Signs.
Schlegel is one of many individuals who have taken advantage of the life changing opportunities provided by the Wyoming tax payers through the Department of Corrections. These opportunities include, among other things, education, vocational training, work programs as well as a variety of substance abuse treatment programs and other behavioral health treatment opportunities.
WDOC reentry transitional teams work with potential employers, family members and offenders to aid with transitions back into Wyoming communities in an attempt to address the offenders most pressing needs, be it employment, housing, transportation etc. Wyoming enjoys one of the lowest recidivism rates in the nation and it is through the efforts of everyone involved in this process that these connections aid in successful transitions from prison back into Wyoming communities.