Gov. Nikki Haley's Department of Corrections is working to create an inmate reference system that employers can use to get a skills evaluation for those seeking work once they're released.

The idea includes creating a phone line that employers can call to get a reference report on how well an inmate became at the variety of skills taught and learned behind bars.

Some of the work inmates can pick up while serving their sentences includes wood-working, welding, flooring brick masonry, paving and veterinarian-type assistance, among others.

The program probably won't officially be rolled out until later this month. One of the issues that still needs to be worked out is the question of potential liability if someone returns to their criminal ways while working.

Haley spokesman Doug Mayer said the effort is a continuation of the governor's push of moving those on welfare into work, saying that she wants to see it replicated "in as many places as possible, including our prison system."

"Making sure that our inmates aren't simply jailed and forgotten about but are being prepared and trained to re-enter the workforce isn't just good for our economy, it's the right thing to do," Mayer said.

S.C. Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said when the program goes on line, employees manning a call center will be able to access notes made by trade teachers and volunteers who evaluated how skilled an inmate became.

"Some of these guys really have some talent in what they can do working with their hands and with their minds," Stirling said Tuesday.

The program would cover inmates who finished their straight time, or who were paroled. For now the plan is to not include in the evaluation information on an inmate's crime or sentence. Background checks would still be up to the employer, Stirling said.

"We're going to let them look at that," he said.

Statewide, the Department of Corrections released 9,623 inmates last year, which breaks down to about 800 men and women each month.

Stirling said the program, when it takes effect, will give inmates a leg up in getting hired when they possess in-demand skills.

Without such efforts, "it's just going to be a revolving door, and we're going to pay a lot for them to live for a long time," Stirling said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551