ATS provides an alternative to the current incarceration system

Academy of Training Skills

LACASSINE, LA (KPLC) - For non-violent and non-sexual offenders, The Academy of Training Skills brings hope to those who want to change their life around.

The ATS, located in Lacassine, La., is a referral facility where individuals charged for non-violent or non-sexual crimes can take educational courses and job training courses, along with counseling.

Owner of ATS Lee Mallett said the recidivism rate in the country is at 80-percent, where as for the state it's 67-percent. In the past three years the Academy has been open, the recidivism rate stands at 22-percent.

"I think you change that by taking those young men and putting them in facilities such as this, where you train them, give them hope and bring them up instead of trying to push them down," Mallett said of the recidivism rates for the state.

Mallett said it also takes the young men off the streets and into a place where they can learn about responsibility and train for a job, and ultimately better their life.

The ATS runs off strict discipline and mandatory skills training classes. And the men at ATS, or cadets as they're called, are required to wake up at 3 a.m. each morning.

"Every morning they all eat together, they go to work together, they all come back in and go to classes," Mallett said. "So it's a very regimented way of life."

The Academy contains close to 200 beds available for the non-violent/non-sexual offenders. Mallett said more facilities such as ATS should be implemented throughout the country because recidivism rates will go down and money will be saved.

"There's 42,000 people incarcerated in this state. Sixty-five-percent of them are non-violent," he said. "If we was to take the non-violent people and let private enterprise build academies of facilities such as this, we could save this state $600-million a year."

The facility isn't funded by the state. The cadets pay for their room and board. As they work, the ATS deducts money from their pay checks for bills. The rest is set aside in savings accounts for when the men leave the facility.

Concerns of whether the cadets are being watched have been an issue but Facility Superintendent Kelvin Smith said security cameras watch every move.

"Our security cameras are so detailed where I can zoom in and see the mustache on somebody's face," Smith said.

And when the cadets first arrive to the ATS, they are set up in a military-style dorm room with no privileges.

"No TV, no air conditioner, no heating, no nothing," Smith said.

Smith said discipline is key at the facility. "My motto is if you give respect, you're going to get it. We don't baby them. We try to teach them to be men."

The Academy is all about giving men second chances to get back on their feet and stay out of trouble.

"Just the fact that they learned to dress right, to talk right, to be timely, to get up, go to work, to be respectful, that's a big thing in itself in my opinion," Mallett said.

The ATS currently has 122 cadets with a majority between the ages of 18 and 30.

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