MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama lawmakers and other state officials Tuesday toured the state’s largest correctional education system.

J.F. Ingram State Technical College in Elmore County is the only educational facility of its kind in the country exclusively serving those incarcerated, including Richard Redmond.

“Feels good to know that I came from only an eighth-grade education level when I started, and now I’m being honored for being at the top of my class,” Redmond said.

Redmond now has his GED, several industry certifications and training in welding. When his sentence ends this May, he will attend Bishop State Community College in Mobile while working at a shipyard.

“Ingram is helping to transform lives. This ain’t what someone told me. I have seen it and experienced it myself,” Redmond said.

Lawmakers and state leaders heard from Redmond and President Annettee Funderburk before touring the facilities.

“Taking an opportunity to learn while they’re incarcerated and providing them a second chance is what we believe,” Funderburk said.

The technical institution is part of Alabama’s Community College System. At the Draper campus, students can get trained in welding, HVAC and barbering and can earn a CDL license, forklift certification as well as other technical job requirements.

The location currently serves 17 Alabama prisons and 12 pardons and parole facilities across 20 counties in the state — acting as the sole career technical education provider in Alabama for these individuals.

“People on parole or probation who complete this program in addition to our drug rehabilitation program — the recidivism rate goes from 30% down to 4.1%,” Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles Director Cam Ward said.

Ward says this program is changing lives.

“We need this all over the state. If you really want a crime reduction program, this is ground zero for it,” Ward said.

Officials with the Alabama Community College System said they’ll be asking the legislature this session to increase funding to expand correctional education programs.

ISTC estimates their total economic impact every year to be about $135 million through supporting about 1,900 jobs.