An incarcerated veteran’s transition back into society is often long and arduous. A new re-entry program at MacDougall Correctional Institution, led by SC Works Trident career counselor Scott Cook, helps participants re-enter into society with a purpose, education, training and a job.

SC Works Trident is partnering with Trident Technical College on its $250,000 Veterans’ Education and Transition Support (VETS) Re-entry grant project, designed to provide training and supportive services to 48 participants. Of the first nine released graduates who completed training last December, six obtained construction-related full-time jobs.

Cook, the grant’s program coordinator, works with veterans incarcerated for nonviolent crimes who are 180 days or fewer from release and attend training classes four times a week for approximately sixteen weeks.

“It’s an opportunity to truly turn things around for these guys,” Cook said. “Most students surrender good time credit for early release so they can join the program and gain the skills needed for a stable re-entry into society.”

The classroom in the MacDougall GED Center looks like most any other. Open textbooks, highlighted notes and a slideshow on carpentry skills displays at the front. Cook guides students as they receive hands-on training and works with each individual to set them up for a successful future.

The success of the program’s job placement is attributable largely in part to Cook’s follow-ups once enrollees are released. Cook checks in periodically to ensure graduates are happily employed and to see if they need any assistance.

“Staying in touch and sustaining the momentum are incredibly important. We’re not going to send anyone out there without proper support,” Cook said. “For instance, two of my Summerville students needed housing assistance, so we secured spots at the Fresh Start halfway house, which also provides them with transportation to and from work.”

The strength of the innovative program lies in its collaborative structure, with Cook providing overall coordination of project activities. MacDougall Correctional Institution offers a specialized veterans housing unit and a wealth of supportive services. Trident Technical College provides construction industry job training and grant management.

Non-profit partners, including Military Community Connection, Palmetto Warrior Connection, Goodwill, and the VA Medical Center, provide critical supportive services, including soft skills and work readiness training, professional development seminars, housing support, health and wellness activities, and connections to community support.

For more information, contact Scott Cook at (843) 574-1835 or email