Drive Change food truck biz trains formerly incarcerated youth


Drive Change members celebrate their selection for the People’s Choice Award and the Vendy Cup at the 2015 Vendy Awards, New York City’s highest honor for mobile vendors.

While the food business often serves up employment opportunities for those in reentry, Drive Change takes the idea one step further.

The New York City nonprofit’s Snow Day food truck sells an interesting menu of maple syrup-themed cuisine with a side of social justice, while at the same time helping formerly incarcerated young people get the training and work experience they so desperately need.

The organization was the inspiration of Jordyn Lexton, who taught at the public high school on New York City’s notorious Riker’s Island prison complex, in which 16-year-olds are considered adults.

“When I found myself on Riker’s island I was completely blown away by how truly abusive the conditions are,” she says. “My students were leaving with felony convictions rather than juvenile adjudications. When leaving they were met by dead ends, and way too many of my students under different circumstances would have lived crime free.”

Post Riker release opportunities

While at Rikers, Lexton was thinking of business opportunities that could help young Rikers inmates after they’re released.

“There was a culinary arts class on Rikers, and it was one of the only classes where they were happy,” she says. “My own passion for eating, mixed with the realization that the food industry could provide employment and teaching, was where the idea came from.”

Food trucks seemed the best option for her business, because they can provide human connections and raise awareness of injustice inside the system better than restaurants can, she says.

So Lexton spent a year working on a taco truck and researched other food businesses on the side. By the spring of 2014, her organization was up and running and had launched Snowday, its first food truck. Snowday prepares cuisine using ingredients sourced from farms in New York City and beyond.

It caters events and posts its weekly schedule on Twitter. Drive Change also uses the truck as a tool to raise awareness about injustice within the prison system. On days when there’s a rally about reform at Rikers, for example, the organization seeks funding from donors to cover the cost of getting the truck to the event to serve food.

Funding for Drive Change

The money to buy Snowday came from a June 2013 fundraiser at an art gallery that raised about $45,000 from 300 attendees. Those who came promoted the indiegogo campaign that began the next day to their social media circles. That campaign raised another $24,000.

Lexton had built up a large network herself, thanks to her experience in the food truck industry and with criminal justice organizations. She reached out to them, as well as family and friends, to establish an individual giving platform and began to apply for foundation grants.

Snow Day began operations in April 2014, and Drive Change received its first two substantial foundation grants in the fall of 2014. These allowed it to build a kitchen training classroom originally located at the Center for Social Innovation but now in the historic former Pfizer building in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Employees must be between 16 and 25 years of age and treated as an adult in the criminal justice system. Referrals come from other organizations and reentry services. Drive Change received 66 referrals for eight open positions this past spring.

Applicants fill out an application, which Lexton says is a bit challenging and includes an essay. Of the 66 people who were originally referred only 30 completed the application.

Another requirement is that people have stable housing. “It can be a shelter or transitional housing, but knowing where someone is sleeping every night is important for employment,” Lexton says.

When people first hire on, they go through a five-week training period to receive food safety and New York Food Handlers certifications. During training, employees are paid minimum wage but upon graduation begin at $11 per hour.

During the next four to six months, Drive Change employees work in both the prep kitchen and on the truck. They also take classes in social media, marketing, hospitality, money management and small business development to prepare them for future employment or to create businesses of their own.

Although Drive Change is a nonprofit, it’s structured to own a profit LLC. The food truck is a third of its overall operating budget and is close to covering its own costs, according to Lexton.

Model for growth

The organization’s original goal was to operate a fleet of food trucks, but it has developed a different model for growth.

It plans to build a garage, a sort of food truck commissary, where other food truck operators can park their trucks, store goods, buy products and provide facilities for their employees to change clothes. Owners who park their trucks in the garage will be required to hire Drive Change employees. Lexton’s vision is to work with 120 people on 10 to 15 trucks.

And she doesn’t think that will be a problem for several reasons. The fact that New York City food trucks often have trouble finding a space for overnight parking is one of them.

“We’ve figured out by investing in this space, we can actually benefit the businesses of other food trucks in New York City. It will make their operations more efficient, lower their costs on goods and amenities and be good for their bottom line,” she says. ‘They also get the privilege of hiring these young people. It’s very hard for food trucks to find licensed and credentialed employees.”

What Drive Change is doing must be working. On Sept. 12 it won two Vendy Awards, the Oscars of mobile vending for New York City. The organization was honored with the People’s Choice Award and the grand prize Vendy Cup.

“No other vendor in the 11 years of the award has been able to achieve that,” Lexton says.


Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Jails to Jobs’ book in every New South Wales, Australia prison

PrintWhen we set a goal of getting our book, Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed, in every prison library in the United States, we had no idea our reach would extend beyond that. But it has.

We recently received an order for 50 books from an Australian distributor and wanted to find out what compelled someone Down Under to buy our book.

Well, it turns out the copies were purchased by a Sydney-area book distributor for the prisons in the state of New South Wales. (For those unfamiliar with Australia, it’s the state where Sydney is located.)

We were curious to learn why the New South Wales prison system would want our book. So we got in touch with them through the distributor and heard from one of the library technicians at the New South Wales Department of Corrective Services, who asked that his name not be mentioned.

This person’s job is to handle books for all of the correctional center libraries in New South Wales.

“We found out about the book from a prison libraries e-list our library manager subscribes to. The link was to Amazon, who we can’t buy from, hence we asked the distributor to organize the purchase,” he says.

New South Wales has 32 correctional centers and about 40 libraries.

But why our book?

“To my knowledge there are no current publications (in Australia) relating to inmates seeking work once released,” he says.

We hope our book will help those Australian inmates who have access to it launch their job search after release.

For other prisons or prison systems that might be interested, Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed can be purchased through Amazon. We also offer bulk rates to those who contact us directly.


Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Travis County Jail launches pre-release tattoo removal program

The Travis County Jail has had many inmates interested in participating in its new pre-release tattoo-removal program.

The Travis County Jail’s new pre-release tattoo-removal program is popular among its inmates.

While pre-release tattoo removal programs may be one of the best ways to give inmates the confidence they will need to start a new life post release, surprisingly few exist. In fact, we have only been able to identify five such programs in the entire country.

A new program at the Travis (Texas) County Jail, however, may provide a model for other correctional insitutions to follow. The program was launched in early September as a unique partnership between the jail and the Austin-based Texas Laser & Aesthetics Training Academy, whose staff members donate their time for free.

The effort was the brainchild of Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton. “He brought us the idea, but it took quite a while to get the licensing to do it and be a traveling tattoo removal program,” says Katie Beck, the laser academy’s co-owner and clinic director.

Now that the licensing is in place, Beck and one of her head instructors travel to the jail every other week with a portable tattoo removal device. Wheeling their device into its medical facility, they spend six hours at the prison, during which they see about 25 patients.

The program is publicized in the jail’s programs area, where inmates go for GED and work readiness classes, and anyone can participate.

“They’re chosen just by request. We’re not turning anyone down,” says Kathryn Geiger, the Travis County Sheriff’s Department’s director of medical services.

The week before the procedures are performed, the Travis County Jail requires that participants undergo a physical examination by the jail’s medical provider. “They have to make sure that their body is capable of absorbing the dye,” says Geiger. “If they’re on any medicines that make them photo sensitive, they’ll stop those seven days before the procedure.”

The jail’s medical staff also requires those who receive treatment to come back the following day to meet with a wound care specialist, who ensures that the tattoo removal site is healing properly. They are also reminded to avoid the sun and keep the area moist with antibiotic cream.

Most of the tattoos are not particularly difficult to remove, according to the laser academy’s Beck. “These tattoos are usually homemade, so the depth of the ink is much easier to get at than ink that is very deeply inside of the dermis. It’s mostly prison tattoos,” she says.

Although the program is still new, follow-up treatments have already been scheduled with one former inmate who has been released. Any participant whose treatments haven’t been completed by the time they’re out can make additional appointments at the laser academy free of charge.

“They’re going to be my models for the classes. Not everyone wants students to work on them, but these guys are perfectly willing,” Beck says, confirming that the tattoo removal program has benefits for her school as well as the jail and its inmates.

Thus far, the program has been an overwhelming success. “Within the first week, we already had 97 requests,” said Geiger. “Even the officer staff has come and asked if we can start doing this for them.”

As the word spreads, more and more inmates are expected to want to participate. And many have stories that tell how important it is to them to get rid of their ink.

Here’s just one from Geiger.

“An inmate was sitting there listening to the presentation and left for the restroom,” she says. “He came out and said, ‘I wasn’t going to do this, but I went into the bathroom and saw myself in the mirror. I saw the teardrops and didn’t want to see them anymore.’”

Another inmate had a different reason that touched Beck.

“One gentleman is just 19 years old. He said he’s afraid he might be deported and doesn’t want to get killed by the cartel if he’s released,” she says.

That’s just one more reason why pre-release tattoo removal programs might be the solution for a variety of potential problems that inmates could face post-release.

For those thinking of starting a pre-release tattoo removal program of their own, Beck and Geiger have some advice:

  • The state licensing for operating a mobile tattoo unit can be the hardest part, so you have to check with your state and see what the requirements are. Every state is different, but they all have a certain amount of bureaucracy, and that’s where you have to start.
  • Look into your community to find other organizations or institutions you may want to partner with.
  • Reach out to laser and aesthetic providers who might want to volunteer to perform the tattoo removals and/or the follow-up for free.

If anyone has any questions, please contact us, and we can refer you to the people who operate the Travis County Jail’s program.


Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

New Skin launches campaign to remove tattoos in 10 cities

IMG_0453San Jose, Calif.-based New Skin Tattoo Removal has created a 10 Cities 10 Days 1,000 Second Chances campaign in which it plans to remove 100 tattoos in each of 10 California cities in 10 days free of charge.

The organization began to raise money for the effort early this month on Gofundme in a fundraising campaign that will continue until the end of the year, with a target goal of $30,000.

New Skin currently operates programs in San Jose, where it’s headquartered, and San Pablo, Calif., where it works with that San Francisco Bay Area suburb on its Removing Barriers tattoo removal program.

‘This idea (to branch out) came a few years ago when we first started out and noticed a lot of people came from places like Fresno, Salinas and Bakersfield because there are no services out there,” says Adam King, New Skin’s CEO. “There are tons of programs for youth but nothing for adults. There’s also a high percentage of people who are trying to change their lives, and we want to help them.”

Once funding for 10 Cities 10 Days 1,000 Second Chances is secured, hopefully by the end of the year, King plans to spend next March covering the state of California, from north to south, spending a day each in Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Salinas, Fresno, Bakersfield, Santa Maria, San Bernardino and Long Beach and ending in San Diego.

He will contact churches in each of those cities to serve as the locations for the program and is already reaching out to government officials, especially in parks and rec departments, in the various cities to let them know his plans. Once the funding comes through the various agencies will publicize the event to drum up clients. In San Jose, King works with organizations that include Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army and also hopes to do the same in the 10 cities they will visit.

The organization will use a donated RV, which has already been secured, and a staff of volunteer medical professionals who will do the procedures using portable tattoo removal laser devices. They will spend one day in each city, and all procedures will be done free of charge.

King also plans to take along a video team to document the trip. They will not only film the 10-city campaign but will also do follow up with some of the people who have their tattoos removed to see how it affected their lives. “We’ll go back to individuals’ homes and follow them to get a more in in-depth portrait of how people feel,” King says.

Once the locations are secured, New Skin volunteers will follow up with clients each month to continue the tattoo removal process. Monarch Lasers, its laser device rental company, can provide the equipment and a team for Southern California and New Skin will take care of Northern California, according to King.

“This will also be a test to see which city has the highest demand for this service so we can decide if it’s worth continuing,” he says.

And that’s the ultimate goal of the campaign – for New Skin to open programs like it has in San Jose and San Pablo in as many of the 10 cities it will visit as possible.

“It will, however, be a slow process and take a long time,” said King. “We’ll build up one program for six months and then move on to the next.”

It may take time, but thanks to a shortage of free and low-cost tattoo removal programs in California and throughout the nation, if all goes well New Skin will be instrumental in providing a much-needed service to those who need it most.


Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Consider an eBay business as an alternative to a regular job

leather-691609_1280Selling things on eBay  can be a good job including for those in reentry. You don’t have to go through an interview, there are no background checks, and no endless searching job sites and sending in resumes. You just need an entrepreneurial spirit, a lot of patience and a determination to work hard.

Although many people sell anything and everything on eBay, it can help to have a specialty. That way you can become an expert in certain types of products, know where to find the good deals and become known among the eBay community. Some people specialize in clothes or shoes, others in cameras and still others in collectables. There are even people who mainly sell baseball gloves, including antique gloves that can bring in pretty prices.

Those who have made a career from selling on eBay each have their own techniques, but for the most part they visit discount stores like Ross or Loehmann’s, thrift shops and estate and garage sales, all in the pursuit of bargains they can sell for higher prices than they bought them for.

Just ask Jennie Smith, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and turned to eBay when she lost a job in the insurance industry three years ago.

She began to visit thrift shops in search of the shoes and clothes she buys, and started an eBay store. But for those who might think this is easy, she reminds them that it’s not.

“It’s a lot of work. You have to go and buy the item. You have to inspect it to see that there are no holes or it’s not faded,” she says. “You have to take measurements and pictures of everything and write a description. You have to store it somewhere nice and safe and find it when you’re ready to ship it.” You also have to research similar items on eBay to see how they’re priced in order to be competitive.

If you want to sell on eBay, you’ll have to start out small, gradually working your way up to more items. And you need a place to store the things you handle.

“I started out with just one room and a couple of shelves but have ventured into the hallway closet and the garage. Now I have 1,100 items in my store,” Smith says. “I just picked up 52 pairs of shoes at the Goodwill outlet. Ralph Lauren boots, Aerosoles. Some of the shoes still have tags on them, and I could sell some of them for as much as $80.” She never buys anything that she can’t sell for at least four times what she paid for it.

Although Smith still works part time in insurance, she spends about 40 hours each week on her eBay business, including the time she’s shopping for goods. She also packs between eight and 20 items each day to ship out to her customers, another part of the business that consumes time.

Selling on eBay is not just about picking something up and selling it. You have to ask yourself, would you buy this? Is it good enough to sell, she says.

Although it takes a certain mindset, those who are successful can make a pretty good living. Smith pulls in between $4,000 and $5,000 per month before eBay’s fees, which average 17 percent.

To learn the business, she recommends a website called The site’s podcasts are full of tips and information to help you make a living through eBay, and she still watches them on a regular basis.

Another good resource for learning about selling on eBay is YouTube videos. For example, search on YouTube for eBay selling tips and start with the videos that have the most views. Also, check to see what books about creating an eBay business are available at your public library. Many have books on the subject from the Dummies and the Complete Idiot’s series.

A good way to begin an eBay business is to check out things that you, your family and friends own but may no longer need or want. That can be your initial inventory while you develop your business.

In order to sell on eBay you must set up a PayPal account. To obtain a PayPal account, you need to have a checking account, so if you don’t have one already, you’ll have to first open one.  Then you can start taking payments from people who will want to buy the things you sell.

We would greatly appreciate it if any formerly incarcerated people who are successfully selling on eBay would be willing to share some tips and advice with our readers. Please add your comments below.


Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

What makes a good prison library

0-1At Jails to Jobs we realize the importance of inmates getting access to job search information so they’ll be ready to hit the pavement upon release.

And one way to get that information is by spending time in the library of the facility where they are incarcerated.

In order to help serve those inmates, we’ve begun a campaign to get our book, Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed, into every prison library in the U.S.

But what makes a good prison library and how do they help incarcerated people prepare for success on the outside?

We thought we’d ask Brandy Buenafe, principal librarian of the Office of Correctional Education, Division of Rehabilitative Programs of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Here’s what she had to say:

Do you have any idea of what percentage of prisons in the U.S. have libraries?

I am not familiar with the entire United States. I know here in California all of the state prisons have libraries, some more than one. There are 35 institutions in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and 125 libraries.

What is the goal of a prison library?

Our goal is to provide an accurate source of unbiased information, including updated reference and legal resources. We also provide fiction and non-fiction reading books.

What makes a good prison library?

I think when the library is perceived by custody, staff and inmates as fulfilling the above goals, it is a good library. I am also encouraged by our libraries that offer additional literacy support, such as book clubs, essay contests and reading reward programs.

How do librarians evaluate the books that go into their libraries?

Books are evaluated by several pieces of criteria, including a list of disapproved titles, the reading needs and desires of the population, and several mandates including percentages of fiction and non-fiction.

How much emphasis is given on job search info in prison libraries?

CDCR libraries include many pieces of self-help information, including resume writing and successful re-entry. We are also part of the Division of Rehabilitative Programs, which has a Community Re-entry Office.

What do prison librarians do to encourage the use of the library among the inmates?

(They sponsor) contests, and do marketing (both word of mouth and on inmate television). The contests are generally around designing a bookmark or writing an essay or poem. Rewards range from certificates of completion to special food items, such as soda pop.

How do you think prison libraries can be improved?

That’s a really good question. We are focusing on recruiting more staff, as there is historically a high vacancy rate. We are highlighting the safe working environment, excellent pay and benefits, and opportunity to impact the lives of individuals and society. We are also often behind the 8 ball when it comes to technology, but in California that is just a matter of time. Now that we will be offering in-person college courses in our institutions, our libraries will need to improve their database offerings, and I’m confident we can do so.

If any readers know of a prison librarian who would like to receive a complimentary copy of our book for their library, please tell them to contact us.


Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Council of State Governments helps lower employment barriers

The Council of State Governments inspired the Greenville, S.C., Chamber of Commerce to hold the Corporate Leader Engagement Breakfast to discuss the barriers to hiring people with criminal records.

The Council of State Governments inspired Greenville, S.C., Chamber of Commerce’s Corporate Leader Engagement Breakfast in which business leaders and others came together to discuss the barriers to hiring people with criminal records.

To get returning citizens back to work and help reduce recidivism is a monumental task, an effort that takes an entire community to tackle.

Representatives from the public and private sectors ranging from corrections to corporations need to work together to change policies, procedures and, most importantly, attitudes.

And that is beginning to happen in cities across the nation, thanks to the nonprofit The Council of State Governments’ Pathways to Prosperity initiative.

The initiative, part of the National Reentry Resource Center of the CSG Justice Center, seeks to provide a policy and practice framework for states to better address workforce needs and to equip citizens with the skills, knowledge and qualifications needed for the 21st century global economy.

It does this by inspiring other organizations to hold events that bring people together to make change in the hiring arena and eradicate the employment barriers that exist for formerly incarcerated individuals.

CSG’s effort was launched last summer at the White House and has continued across the nation with a series of events including, most recently, in Greenville, S.C.; Detroit; and Atlanta.

In May, the Greenville, S.C., Chamber of Commerce sponsored a Corporate Leader Engagement Breakfast attended by 30 employers, as well as community leaders, policymakers and corrections officials. They met to discuss the barriers to hiring people with criminal records and determine the best way to overcome them.

“Employers are looking to hire folks who are loyal, drug free and produce quality work,” said Robyn Knox, planning director at Southern Weaving Company, a Greenville business that hires people with criminal records, and one of the speakers at the event.

“We would not be in business today if these folks were not good workers,” said Knox, who went on to note that criminal records don’t affect staff retention. There is “no statistical difference in turnover,” she said, between her company’s employees who have records and its employees who don’t.

In Detroit, another event with a similar purpose was held during the same month, hosted in that city by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with support from the Detroit Public Safety Foundation.

Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black, gave the keynote address, urging businesses to adopt “ban the box” policies.

The author and activist cited Tim Hortons, Home Depot, and Target as examples of companies that have adopted fair hiring policies. By providing job opportunities for people with criminal records, she said, “these companies are not just banning the box, they are making a serious effort to reshape the reentry landscape moving forward.”

Meanwhile, the Southern Regional Summit on Fair Hiring, which took place on May 18 in Atlanta, brought together more than 100 policymakers, business representatives and community service providers from seven southern states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee – to discuss creating employment opportunities for adults with criminal records.

The event was hosted by the National H.I.R.E. Network of the Legal Action Center, with support from the National Reentry Resource Center.

These events are part of the growing conversation across the country between business leaders and policymakers who are working to improve employment outcomes for individuals with criminal records.

It can be a win-win situation, with returning citizens eager to enter the job market and employers gaining access to a frequently overlooked talent pool in a tightening job market.

To learn how you can hold a similar event in your area contact the Justice Center of The Council of State Governments.


Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

California expands college opportunities for inmates

pedagogy-194931_1280An agreement signed this spring between the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office will provide the first-ever funding to California community colleges for courses taught inside state prisons.

Beginning with four pilot project locations announced earlier this month, the effort is expected to greatly increase and expand California inmate access to higher education and offer incarcerated students an opportunity to earn degrees, certificates or the opportunity to eventually transfer to a four-year university.

It was all made possible by the September 2014 passage of California Senate Bill 1391 authored by State Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley). The bill provides CCCCO up to $2 million to create and support at least four pilot sites through funding derived from California’s Recidivism Reduction Fund.

Created last year in the State Treasury by California Senate Bill 105, the fund provides money for activities designed to reduce the state’s prison population and lower the rate of recidivism.

The $2 million dedicated to the correctional facility community college education pilot project will be split between the following educational institutions/prison sites:

  • Lassen Community College @ High Desert State Prison
  • Chaffey Community College @ California Institution for Women
  • Antelope Valley Community College @ California State Prison, Los Angeles
  • Los Rios (Folsom Lake College) @ Folsom Women’s Facility

Although a recent RAND report found that every dollar invested in inmate education resulted in $5 saved in future prison costs, California community colleges did not previously receive funding to teach within state prisons.

This limited higher education opportunities for inmates, in many cases, to distance learning models and prevented continuity in coursework between prisons. That will soon change, however.

“One of the best accomplishments of SB 1391 is the coalition between CDCR and the Chancellor’s Office,” Superintendent of CDCR’s Office of Correctional Education Brantley Choate said. “We are now inspired to work collaboratively to break down departmental silos to create the best correctional college system in the world.”

CDCR will work with CCCCO and participating colleges to determine suitable program offerings in each of the selected institutions and provide the necessary classroom space, furniture, equipment and technology. It will also provide training to participating California community college staff, faculty and volunteers to prepare them for the unique challenges of providing educational services to inmates.

“Expanding access to higher education can have tremendous benefits for incarcerated students and those around them,” said California Community Colleges Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Pam Walker. “Community colleges can provide incarcerated students with new skills and perspectives that can help build better lives and reduce recidivism.”

Classes are expected to begin in the fall.


Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

New NYU survey finds adverse physical reactions to tattoos

tattoo-376821_1280While most people who come to our website already have tattoos and want to get them taken off, we’ve just discovered one more reason why you may not want to get a tattoo in the first place.

And that’s long-term medical risks.

In a survey released last week which may be the first of its kind, researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center discovered that as many as 6 percent of New Yorkers who get tattooed suffer some form of tattoo-related rash, severe itching or swelling that lasted longer than four months and in certain cases for years.

The survey involved interviews with about 300 adults in New York’s Central Park in June 2013 and confirms what European researchers have also discovered in monitoring medical complications related to tattoos – that they can cause adverse dermatological reactions.

Survey respondents ranged in age from 18 to 69, with the majority having no more than five tattoos.

“We were rather alarmed at the high rate of reported chronic complications tied to getting a tattoo,” says Marie Leger, MD, PhD, senior study investigator and assistant professor in NYU Langone’s Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, whose team’s latest findings appeared in the journal Contact Dermatitis online May 27.

Leger cites the lack of regulatory oversight as an underlying weakness in measuring the true scope of the complications tied to tattooing, noting that the chemical composition of colored inks used in the process is poorly understood and not standardized among dye manufacturers.

“It is not yet known if the reactions being observed are due to chemicals in the ink itself or to other chemicals, such as preservatives or brighteners, added to them, or to the chemicals’ breakdown over time,” says Leger. “The lack of a national database or reporting requirements also hinders reliable monitoring.”

“The skin is a highly immune-sensitive organ, and the long-term consequences of repeatedly testing the body’s immune system with injected dyes and colored inks are poorly understood. Some of the reactions appear to be an immune response, yet we do not know who is most likely to have an immune reaction to a tattoo.”

Most long-lasting complications occurred in skin regions injected with the two most common tattoo ink colors, red and black. Almost half (44 percent) of chronic reactions were to red ink, even though only slightly more than a third (36 percent) had tattoos with red ink. One-third of chronic cases involved black ink, while over 90 percent of tattoos encompass black coloring.

Leger has plans for a larger survey to determine which colored inks and possible dye components are most closely tied to adverse reactions. She says her investigation might also reveal other factors that might put people at greater risk of suffering chronic complications.

In the meantime since the details of how these adverse reactions are caused are still unclear, the best thing may be to forego tattoos altogether.

Think before you ink – and maybe you’ll decide it’s not worth it after all.


Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.

Career Coaches take job search help to all corners of Tennessee

One of three Career Coaches operated by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

One of three Career Coaches operated by the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

What is it about Tennessee and job search buses, and why don’t more places follow its lead?

When writing about Memphis Public Library’s JobLINC: Mobile Bus for Job Seekers and Employers recently, we also discovered that the entire state is covered by mobile One-Stop-type units that reach remote rural corners of Tennessee, as well as jails, prisons and homeless shelters.

The program is known as Career Coach – as in bus but also as in career counselor. And the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development operates three buses that cover the entire state.

The story of the Career Coach goes way back to the 1970s with a mobile unit that only lasted for a short time. But the information about it remained in the department’s files so no one would forget. And they didn’t. In 2011, the department applied for – and was granted – funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to buy three buses and outfit them to reach as many job seekers as possible.

The buses are like RVs, and each one has 10 laptops, a network printer, fax machine and copier, a 42” flat-screen TV with SmartBoard overlay, and a DVD/CD player, as well as high-speed satellite Internet. The Career Coaches also have career specialists who can help people with resumes and other things they need to do to get ready for job interviews.

Each bus is stationed in a different part of the state – one in Knoxville, another in Nashville and the third in Huntington in West Tennessee.

“We have made it an extension of our brick-and-mortar American Job Center,” said Nicholas Bishop, director grants and special projects of the Tennessee Dept. of Labor & Workforce Development, which oversees the Career Coach program. “We take the buses to prisons and jails. Even though they may be in a metro area that has access to a career center, the inmates may have restraints going to those centers,” he said.

Last month the three units combined provided service to 1,031 people at 73 events in 40 different Tennessee counties. Thanks to the use of backpacks with computers, mobile printers and Wi-Fi, the department can have two events going on at the same time.

Inside a Career Coach.

Inside one of the career coaches operated by the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

“We’re kind of like the job squad,” said Bishop.

Chambers of commerce, churches, county jails and organizations can request a visit by a Career Coach online. Events are publicized by the organizations, as well as through Facebook, Twitter and email blasts to everyone in the area who is registered in the database. They’ve had anywhere from 10 to 200 people at an event.

The Career Coaches also go to jails and prisons five to 10 times per month and work with probation and parole offices. And last July, the department got all three units certified as testing sites for the HiSET (High School Equivalency Test).

“The problem we have in Tennessee is a lot of people who lack the high school credential don’t have convenient access to a testing site,” said Bishop. Inmates might take classes in jail but would have to be bussed two hours to take the test. “The mobile units are testing sites, and our team can go into a county jail facility and convert it into a testing site for the day.”

In April, the department administered the high school exam to 80 people, and 55 of those were incarcerated. “We hope that we can help rehabilitate inmates while they’re incarcerated and keep them from going back to jail,” Bishop said.

On some occasions the Career Coach career specialists offer workshops on resume writing, interviewing and basic computer skills. “We do them if an organization requests it but also provide one-on-one services for people who need help with resumes and other things,” he said.

In addition, company recruiters occasionally come on board. “They’ll interview people and do the drug screening right on the bus, and several people have been offered a job right on the spot,” Bishop said.

Not too long ago, the Career Coach went to Dickson near Nashville to begin recruiting employees for Dal-Tile’s newest manufacturing plant. The company not only concentrated on interviewing prospective employees but provided an info session for the community to get ready for the plant’s opening early next year. And it proved that the Career Coach can be used in many ways.

Other states are you listening?


Jails to Jobs is searching for ideas for this blog. If you know of a company that is hiring ex-offenders, or if you have unique job search tips that could assist ex-offenders in finding employment or are aware of organizations or agencies doing exceptional things that benefit ex-offenders in their job search efforts, we'd love to hear from you.