DUPAGE COUNTY - Not a single case of the coronavirus has made its way into the DuPage County Jail.
The sheriff says that’s in part thanks to a training program turning jail house inmates into professional janitors.
On Thursday, eight inmates graduated from the program, earning certification for a janitorial job upon their release.
"Being that the virus is not stopping anytime soon, this was perfect timing for this class," said Kent Hughes, a program graduate.
The sanitation training has been in place for two years, but was re-vamped when the coronavirus hit.
"It was almost like a blessing by God to have it intact, so we could turn sanitation teams directly into contagion control teams," said DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick.
Students learned about chemical solutions to kill the virus, how to operate machinery and basic professional cleaning practices.
The sheriff says graduates can earn up to $20 dollars an hour, with the training, upon release.
"It is true rehabilitation, where people are actually sending me letters thanking me for incarcerating them because they are able to get help, treatment," said Mendrick.
The jail provides graduates with three suits, job placement assistance and stays in touch once they are released.
"All of this is about hope and purpose," the sheriff said.
Hughes said it provides a good opportunity to make income for himself and support his family, and "hopefully not come back here."
The jail also hosts a horticulture work program that has donated 1,000 pounds of food to local pantries. They also have a welding program and plan to add dry walling, painting and tiling soon.