February 29, 2024
Driving Successes

Photo: TCC

TCC's truck driver training school has certified almost 300 truck drivers since 2016. Of that group, 41 were trained while finishing prison sentences.

Economic Backbone: Transportation/Trade/Logistics

Driving Successes

Tallahassee Community College's truck driver training school helps get inmates on the road to a better future.

Laura Cassels | 5/24/2023

As president of Tallahassee Community College and a veteran law enforcement official, Jim Murdaugh knows the value of workforce training in helping people improve their circumstances, including those who have had run-ins with the law.

Reginald Watkins is just such a person.

Watkins, 33, of Monticello, served two stints in prison on theft, drug and firearm possession charges and was released on probation last July. While in prison, he earned his GED and enrolled in training provided by TCC to earn a commercial driving license. He is one of 41 inmates since 2021 who have completed the TCC training while preparing for release from prison.

The Florida Department of Corrections cleared him to drive commercially while on probation. He has since been hauling construction materials from Florida to Tennessee to Nebraska. He was in Iowa when FLORIDA TREND interviewed him.

“I knew I had to make a change. I knew I wanted to get my CDL (commercial driver's license). The trucking industry, it’s good money, and it’s a great opportunity because as a convicted felon, it’s hard to get a job,” Watkins says.

Watkins says TCC helped put him on a path to support himself and his 6-year-old son. He is saving to buy a truck and become an owner-operator, which could more than double his earnings.

Murdaugh, who spent more than 20 years in law enforcement before leading TCC's public safety institute and then becoming president, recalls attending graduation ceremonies with then Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch for the first seven TCC trained inmates certified as commercial drivers.

“These seven inmates were there with regalia on, in their graduation robes, and below the bottom of the robes you could see they were wearing their prison attire. At the end of the graduation, they proudly held up their commercial truck driver licenses. These were people still inside the prison; they had not yet finished their sentences,” Murdaugh says. “In the back of the room, we had arranged to have three employers there, three companies that employ commercial truck drivers, and every single one of those graduates had a job offer before the end of that ceremony." 

Tags: Transportation, Feature

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