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posted: 7/19/2019 5:33 AM

DuPage jail’s welding program yields first inmates graduating with ‘hope and purpose’

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  • Mike Beary, executive director of JUST of DuPage, shakes the hands of county jail inmates Raymond Andrews and Ventrel Murphy after they received their certificates of graduation from the jail's new welding program. DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick was there to hug and congratulate them.

    Mike Beary, executive director of JUST of DuPage, shakes the hands of county jail inmates Raymond Andrews and Ventrel Murphy after they received their certificates of graduation from the jail's new welding program. DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick was there to hug and congratulate them.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick stands proudly next to inmates Raymond Andrews and Ventrel Murphy, who graduated Wednesday from the county jail's new welding program, the first of its kind in the area.

    DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick stands proudly next to inmates Raymond Andrews and Ventrel Murphy, who graduated Wednesday from the county jail's new welding program, the first of its kind in the area.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Commanders from the Korean National Police Agency, left, were in the suburbs last week studying SWAT tactics and management at the Wheeling-based Northern Illinois Police Alarm System.

    Commanders from the Korean National Police Agency, left, were in the suburbs last week studying SWAT tactics and management at the Wheeling-based Northern Illinois Police Alarm System.
    Courtesy of Northern Illinois Police Alarm System

 

How often do you see a sheriff hugging jail inmates?

It happened Wednesday at the DuPage County jail as Sheriff Jim Mendrick congratulated the first graduates of a new and innovative welding-training program.

"You guys are at the beginning part of greater things to come," Mendrick told grads Ventrel Murphy and Raymond Andrews. "This is going to be viral. This is going to spread."

They were two of three detainees who earned level-1 welding certification through the six-week program taught by First Institute Training and Management. Instruction was done in a trailer on an interior lot of the sheriff's complex in Wheaton.

The slogan painted on the trailer: "Sparking Your Future."

Murphy could have posted bail and been released, but he chose to stay in jail to participate in the program. He didn't see the point of bailing out if there wasn't anything positive waiting for him on the outside. Now, he has a new skill and intends to pursue advanced welding through the College of DuPage.

"This program was a good opportunity, so we don't have to end up back in here," he said.

When Andrews learned of the program, he thought, "I need to jump on this. I need a guaranteed job when I get out." The support of the instructors, and of the corrections officers, "never ceased to amaze me," he said.

"We're giving people hope and purpose," Mendrick said.

'You guys are examples'

Kurt Beier, executive director of First Institute, had a surprise for Murphy and Andrews Wednesday: The company is giving them each a welding outfit -- helmet, gloves, boots and coveralls -- worth about $250. They also will get a welding instruction book and a portfolio of their work.

The institute will arrange for them to work on a trial basis at local factories. Grants pay for the training program and the trial work.

"A lot of places need welders," instructor Dan Caldwell said, particularly in Bensenville, Elk Grove Village and Lombard.

There's a lot expected of Andrews and Murphy.

"You guys are examples. You guys are going to light the torch that is going to stay lit," Mendrick said.

The program was available to detainees from ages 18 and 24 who were enrolled in the jail's JUST program. The JUST program offers classes, addiction treatment and religious education.

Mendrick also praised his officers for adapting to the "paradigm shift" that has happened since he took office in December.

"In the beginning I felt the resistance (to) rehabilitation," Mendrick said. That's changing, evidenced by the applause and congratulatory handshakes from some of the officers who attended Wednesday's ceremony.

Learning from the best

Where do South Korea's top cops go to learn the latest in law enforcement techniques and tactics? The suburbs here, of course.

A team of leaders from the Korean National Police Agency visited the area last week to study at the Wheeling-based Northern Illinois Police Alarm System.

NIPAS is a law enforcement mutual aid cooperative made up of 105 suburban police departments. It includes an Emergency Services Team (aka SWAT) and Mobile Field Force, which handles crowd control. Its Emergency Services Team is one of the largest part-time SWAT units in the nation.

The Korean delegation was in the U.S. learning about the coordination, management, training and deployment of regional SWAT teams. NIPAS was one of three SWAT teams they visited.

A three-person contingent of Korean officers met with members of the NIPAS executive board and SWAT and Mobile Field Force commanders to learn about the teams and their equipment. The week's activities included participation in a full-day scenario training event in Glenview and a meeting with the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System to learn about the statewide mutual aid system.

Slow down (on Wednesday)

We say it's always a good idea to stick with the speed limit, but those of you afflicted with a lead foot might want to pay special attention to your speedometers Wednesday.

That's when police departments across the state will take part in Illinois Speed Awareness Day. Officers will be stepping up efforts to enforce speed limits, as well as spread the word about the dangers of driving at high speeds.

According to stats shared with us by the Vernon Hills Police Department, speed was the reason for 42% of all fatal crashes that left 462 people dead in Illinois in 2017.

Watching your speed is especially important in residential neighborhoods and areas with pedestrian traffic. Authorities note that a pedestrian hit by a car traveling 20 mph has a 90% chance of surviving. Upping the speed to 30 mph cuts the survival rate to 50%.

For more information about Illinois Speed Awareness Day, visit www.illinoisspeedawarenessday.org.

Support group

The Kane County state's attorney's office reminds us it has revamped its homicide support group. The next meeting is at 7 p.m. July 30, but you have to register by Monday, July 22.

You don't have to live in Kane County to attend, and it doesn't matter how long ago the homicide happened. People 18 and older can attend. Sign up under the "victim services" tab at sao.public.co.kane.il.us.

Helping trafficking victims

Props to an Aurora company for helping victims of human trafficking.

Bernina of America, which makes sewing, embroidery and quilting machines, has partnered with Rethreaded, a nonprofit agency that provides employment training and other aid to survivors.

The partnership was initiated at a recent Bernina dealer conference in Florida. The dealers toured Rethreaded's store, bought Rethreaded items at the conference, and donated money. Bernina also donated a $1,900 sewing machine.

For more information about Rethreaded, or to view its wares, visit rethreaded.com.

• Got a tip or thoughts on a cops and crime-related issue to share? Email copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.