Hundreds of prisoners have cycled through the Marine Technology Training Center in Chino, Ca., which reopened last year after budget cuts forced its closure five years ago, says USA Today. The school feeds a niche industry in which ex-offenders can earn $50,000 to $100,000 right out of prison – often more than the cops who busted them. The healthy salaries are a key reason why only about 6 percent of the dive school graduates return to prison in a system where nearly 70 percent of all prisoners are rearrested for new offenses.
The Chino divers land jobs largely because of the school’s strong reputation and a steady need for highly skilled labor in heavy construction, shipping, and the oil industry. Violent offenders generally are not eligible for the program, which attracts about 20 to 40 applicants for the 12-month course. Of that group, about one-third drop out. Debbie Mukamal of the Prisoner Re-entry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice says programs like Chino’s that provide advanced training and the potential for high-paying jobs are rare.