Inmates get hands-on instruction in cow care from Nicholas Julian, assistant dairy manager at Wateree Dairy.
Dairy program offers marketable skills for South Carolina offenders
Come October 2013, a dedicated dairyman named Joel* will be free to start a new job. His credentials include hands-on herdsman experience, formal training, references and enthusiasm. He’s willing to relocate.
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Joel currently works at Wateree Dairy, operated by the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDOC) in Rembert, S.C. The scenic 8,000-acre farm holds Wateree River Correctional Facility, along with modern dairy, beef, crop and greenhouse operations. Plans are underway to expand the 500-cow dairy herd (primarily Holsteins, 10% Jerseys) to 1,000 milking cows by the end of 2013 and 1,500 milking by 2014.
The oldest prison in South Carolina, Wateree is considered a medium security, Level II facility, meaning it has single-fenced perimeters and electronic surveillance. No employees carry lethal weapons inside, except during transport of inmates.
While serving a sentence, Joel has completed a comprehensive training program he hopes that potential dairy employers will find attractive.
The Wateree Dairy Training School (DTS) is the brain child of Nicholas Julian, the dairy’s assistant manager. He pitched the idea of launching a formal training program when he interviewed for the job in August 2011. His goal was to help inmates develop marketable skills for the outside while they have meaningful work on the inside.
Julian’s credentials serve him well at the prison dairy. A New York native who previously parlayed his U.S. Army service into an Empire State senior investigator position, he has also worked as a manager on a 1,000-cow dairy in his home state. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and recently started graduate theology studies.
Having immediately garnered the dairy manager’s approval, the DTS, under Julian’s tutelage, is now an approved vocational educational program for the Palmetto Unified School District, which supports the SCDOC’s effort to rehabilitate inmates while providing Wateree Dairy with a high-quality workforce.
"Our goal is that, when released, our inmates will possess motivation and skill sets to become productive members of society and fill ever-increasing jobs in agriculture," Julian says.
To qualify for the voluntary DTS, inmates must first complete three months working on the dairy with no disciplinary actions, have at least 12 months remaining on their sentences, commit that time to working on the dairy exclusively, exhibit at least 8th grade reading skills, be nominated by a dairy supervisor and complete an interview with Julian. While 50 of Wateree’s 800 inmates work on the dairy, just eight select individuals are currently enrolled in the DTS.
Trainees are typically non-violent offenders with designated release dates. These men have also earned the right to stay in dorm-style housing rather than cells.
Participating inmates have "intern status" and are required to complete 780 hours, including supervised hands-on training (70%) and classroom instruction with testing (30%). The curriculum features rotation through four courses, including milker and processing (six weeks), animal health (six weeks), cattle breeder (four weeks), and calf and heifer rearing (five weeks).
Milker/Processing covers the udder system, milking procedures, identifying and treating mastitis, milk quality/quality assurance, milk withholding and antibiotic residue, cow handling and grouping, and milk processing/regulations.
- September 2013