Driving a garbage truck can provide good pay, benefits and steady work for ex-offenders

driving a garbage truck

Kamarlo Spooner is putting together a nonprofit to help people coming out of prison become garbage truck drivers.

When considering work after prison, driving a garbage truck might not be the first job that comes to mind. But maybe you should consider it. This type of work can provide excellent pay and an opportunity for union membership with all of its benefits. And in many cases it might mean a schedule that allows time for other interests and commitments.

Just ask Kamarlo Spooner, who worked his way into a garbage truck driving job after being incarcerated and hopes to help others like him get a similar opportunity.

Spooner actually started seriously preparing for employment during his three years of imprisonment for drug sales and firearms convictions.

“In the prison, they had different programs. I got really good in carpentry, welding and auto mechanics. I wanted to prepare for a job,” he says.

Spooner found truck driving more suitable job than carpentry

Spooner used the carpentry skills he developed while incarcerated to land an apprenticeship position with a builder. But he was only making $12 per hour and needed more money to support his family. So he picked up the handbook for commercial truck driving, studied it during his lunch periods and managed to pass the test for a Class A permit.

Without a license yet, Spooner couldn’t get the type of job he wanted. “I finally found a company that would give me a job. They allowed me to drive Class B trucks, and I had a certain amount of time to get my Class A license. I would have to join the Teamsters Union. They let me practice on the company truck when I wasn’t working. Every Saturday and Sunday morning I went in at 2 a.m. and practiced driving the commercial vehicles. I taught myself on the weekends and on weekdays went to work on 10 hour shifts,” Spooner says.

His pay went from $12 per hour as a carpenter to $22 per hour with benefits at the truck driving job, He worked there for three years and at another truck driving company for another three years, before applying for a job with Waste Management in a San Francisco suburb, where six years later he’s still employed.

A typical day for Spooner? He reports to work at 5:15 a.m., sits in on a brief safety meeting, then does a pre-trip walk around the truck to make sure everything is OK. Then it’s off on his route to collect recyclables, using a joystick to operate the arm that picks up the garbage containers on the curbside and dumps their contents in the truck.

Spooner makes more than $100,000 per year. Although he likes his job, that’s not what he ultimately wants to do.

Wants to help others have opportunities driving a garbage truck

“What I really want to do is to get paid to get out and encourage other folks – basically, what I do now for free,” he says.

During the time he was incarcerated, Spooner decided that when he was released he would go back and help inmates prepare to get on their feet when they get out. But the prisons he talked to weren’t interested. Finally, the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, Calif., where he was incarcerated for almost two years, allowed him to come in and talk to the inmates.

That was the beginning. Spooner has continued his education. He now has five associate degrees and speaks to formerly incarcerated individuals as part of Peralta Community College District’s New Degree program to encourage them to go to community college.

Plans to create nonprofit to train garbage truck drivers

Beyond that, Spooner is in the process of putting together a nonprofit that will help previously incarcerated people get their commercial  driver’s license (CDL), train them to operate a trash truck and create a pipeline of qualified drivers to offer trash companies.

And how exactly does he plan to do this? His idea is to recruit formerly incarcerated individuals who are living in the many homeless camps in Oakland and other parts of Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He will help them get their commercial license and GED, train them to drive a garbage truck and pay them while they’re doing it. The garbage truck will pick up trash from the various homeless encampments. Spooner also plans to work with the city of Oakland and Alameda County to have his trainees clean up areas where protests have taken place.

“After a couple of years, they’ll be trained on how to operate a commercial truck, have a GED and get a commercial truck driver’s license,” Spooner says. “If these individuals do well at my organization, I’ll have a pipeline so after two years they can get a job at another company.”

While his nonprofit is still in the planning stages, Spooner has already been approved for tax-exempt status as a nonprofit by the state of California and is in the process of filling out the federal forms to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Kamarlo Spooner Foundation.

CalPIA Case Planning Project created to help prepare inmates for employment

CalPIA Case Planning ProjectMany people consider prison industries a form of slave labor, thanks to the incredibly low wages usually paid. But some prisoners look at it as a way to get out of their cells, feel useful and learn how to work with others.

And If more agencies create programs like the California Prison Industry Authority’s new Case Planning Project, incarcerated individuals may also have an easier time finding employment upon reentry.

The California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) develops and operates industrial, agricultural and service enterprises that provide work opportunities for offenders under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

CalPIA selected 140 participants

To carry out its Case Planning Project, now being operated as a pilot project, CalPIA has randomly selected clients from its current workforce who have a time to serve of nine months to five years.

The 140-member cohort includes groups of about 20 members. Each of these groups has a case plan manager or CPM.

“CPMs administer assessments, use motivational interviewing techniques, and meet face-to-face with clients at least monthly,” says Michele Kane, chief external affairs for CalPIA. “CPMs are present throughout the five CALPIA Enterprise locations. They work directly with CDCR Custody, Education, and Rehabilitative Program staff to support the rehabilitative goals of each client. CPMs will facilitate pre-release planning by working directly with CDCR parole staff.”

The Case Planning Project is being carried out at five facilities:

  • Central California Women’s Facility, Chowchilla
  • California Institution for Women, Corona
  • Folsom State Prison (Men’s Facility)
  • Folsom Women’s Facility
  • San Quentin State Prison
Expected outcomes of the CalPIA Case Planning Project

“CALPIA CPM staff will provide individualized offender-focused case management techniques to reinforce the goals of the offender’s Rehabilitative Case Plan. By focusing on the principles of effective intervention CALPIA will enhance public safety through evidence-based practices, which research has shown to reduce recidivism,” says Kane.

“The CDCR uses the California Logic Model, a detailed, sequential description of how to apply evidence-based principles, practices and effective delivery of a core set of rehabilitation programs. Research shows that to achieve positive outcomes, correctional agencies must provide rehabilitative programs to the right offenders, at the right time, and in a manner consistent with evidence-based programming design. The model identifies eight steps in adult offender rehabilitation. CALPIA’s integrated case-planning process includes a stronger emphasis on the offender’s ownership, acceptance, and likely completion of rehabilitation goals.

The program uses a variety of resources to carry out its mission. We were pleased to learn they selected our book, Jails to Jobs: Seven Steps to Becoming Employed, which will be given to participants who will use it as they are preparing to be released and also upon release to help them in their job search reentry.

The CALPIA Case Planning Project will continue until June 30, 2019. If it is successful, it will provide the model for an expanded program throughout CDCR.



State departments of vocational rehabilitation provide job training, education, other services

State departments of rehabilitationThere is one excellent resource that far too few in reentry take advantage of. But many should. And that’s state departments of vocational rehabilitation.

Their purpose: to help people who have disabilities find jobs. These disabilities can be physical, mental or even a learning disability.

The state departments of vocational rehabilitation provide job training, counseling and placement and can sometimes offer funds for qualified clients to get a college education at a public community college or public college or university.

Every state has a department of vocational rehabilitation, and they’re an often-overlooked resource. Tribal nations also have them. The majority of the funding (78.7%) comes from the U.S. Dept. of Education, with the difference made up by state monies.

Since an estimated 75% of people leaving a correctional facility have a disability of some sort, many in reentry may be eligible to apply for some of the services offered by one of the vocational rehabilitation departments. They must have a significant barrier to getting or keeping employment in order to receive the services, however.

What is offered by the departments is not an entitlement. People must really want to work and need to do everything they can to prepare for and find employment.

Few in reentry seek help from departments of vocational rehabilitation

The reasons are unclear, but very few people in reentry turn to departments of vocational rehabilitation, either because they don’t realize they qualify or they have no interest.

“A lot of people don’t understand they have a disability. It’s a stigma. A lot of people have no idea they may have a disability even if they’re taking medication for it,” says Alia Kuraishi, a statewide workforce development specialist with the California Department of Rehabilitation.

“It also goes back to people who are gang affiliated and don’t want to be associated with having a disability or being part of the system. We have invested a lot of time in reentry programs.”

Every state works slightly differently, but in California there are California Department of Rehabilitation offices in various counties statewide.

“We also have a presence in halfway houses and are mandated to be at the American Job Centers throughout the state,” says Kuraishi. “If someone can’t make it to a department office, they can connect with their local One-Stop (American Job Center) and say, ‘I’m interested in services through the department of rehabilitation.’”

Departments provide a variety of services

Those services can be a variety of things. “We’ve done education plans and helped with expungement. People need to be educated about what shows up on their background checks. We find out what’s going on in the local area and have job developers who are in touch with local businesses and know about federal bonding,” she says.http://bonds4jobs.com/

“If someone needs to go back and get a B.A. degree, we can fund training and education. If someone needs a training program to get work, we’ll look at what programs are available and fund them.”

“We will do informational interviews with different companies to see if they’ve hired people with criminal records in the past or we have the applicant do that themselves.”

All of these things can help those in reentry get a step ahead on the road to employment.

You can find a link to your state’s vocational rehabilitation department by checking out the Department of Education’s Job Accommodation Network website.

S.F. Bay Area philanthropist Matt Mochary sends ex-offenders to truck driving school


Matt MocharyThere are many ways that people become involved with helping formerly incarcerated individuals get back on their feet, but Matt Mochary’s story is rather unique. And what he does now – he sends people getting out of jail to truck driving school – proves, once again, that jobs are key to preventing recidivism.

After selling his company Totality Corp. to Verizon at the age of 31, Mochary had enough money to pursue other interests. What he decided to do was make movies. His first, Favela Rising, was shot in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. The second, The Gloves, focused on heavyweight boxers who live and train in the South Bronx. Both of them opened his eyes to another existence of which he was previously unaware.

“When I was in Brazil making a documentary, I ended up spending a lot of time in the favelas. I realized there were no jobs there. The best job the people who live in the favelas could get was joining the drug gangs,” he says.

Mochary found the same thing to be true in the South Bronx. “I realized that if I had been born in that zip code I’d be a gang member as well as a gang leader. I had the thought that maybe convicted felons in the country are just doing what they have to do to eat. To survive,” he says.

He decided to test out his theory by working with an inmate being released from Riker’s Island, who had been incarcerated since the age of 14. “It was shockingly easy. I thought why wouldn’t I hire you. Because you look like a thug, talk like a thug and act like a thug. So I helped him look, act and dress like a kid who’d gone to an Ivy League college,” he says. (Mochary graduated from Yale University.)

After release, the guy got a job, but when they discovered his record the he was fired. And it happened several times. So Mochary decided that those leaving jail and prison need jobs where their record doesn’t matter. That would be construction work, truck driving or farm labor, and truck driving seemed to be the easiest of those to procure.

Shortage of qualified applicants for truck and bus driver job openings

According to Mochary’s research there are often shortages of qualified applicants for available truck and bus driver positions. And the pay can be pretty good – $20-$25 per hour to start. Driving public passenger buses usually pays more, though, and the benefits are often better. Therefore, in most cases, Mochary suggests training for and taking a passenger bus driving test.

Mochary now works through his Mochary Foundation, created to help previously incarcerated individuals find jobs and to train the brightest kids in the poorest neighborhoods to be computer programmers.

He began working with inmates at San Francisco County Jail nine months ago and has put eight people through truck driver training, all of whom are fully employed.

Most truck driving schools offer 10-week courses, but Mochary has found schools that can train people in a week. People can start studying for the California DMV commercial drivers written test while still incarcerated and then take the training when out.

Passing the test is not easy and requires many hours of study and taking practice tests, which are included in the materials Mochary provides. Even though it takes hard work and effort, those who are motivated and who put the required time in will have a pretty good chance of passing the test.

The total cost for each participant is about $2,250. The DMV test is $73, the medical exam $80, one week of truck driving school $2,000, and transportation to and from school for a week $100.

Willing to finance training for hundreds of people

Meanwhile, Mochary says he is willing to finance the training of “hundreds of people” but doesn’t want to handle the logistics of the inmates studying the test material and then committing to going to truck driving school.

“I need someone else to get excited about it. I wanted to prove to myself that it could work, and I’ve already done that. I’d like to find a national organization that already exists and have them adopt the program,” he says.

Until Mochary finds that organization he is willing to accept referrals of California jail inmates who are interested in participating, but they would need the support of someone inside the jail or a volunteer organization working there.

That person or organization could print out the study materials that Mochary provides and hand them to the inmate, administer practice exams when ready and then follow up to connect that person with Mochary, so he could sponsor the truck driving school training. The money transfer part can be handled through the service league at each jail.

Mochary has written a short guide on how to administer a California Driver’s Licensing Truck Driving Training Program in jail or prison. As part of a desire to help give “thousands and thousands” of people a second chance, he has generously offered to share his guide and handouts with jail contacts and/or organizations in California to support California referrals. He is also willing to share the information with out-of-state organizations that would like to replicate his program in their own state. Since laws can be different in different states the appropriate local state agencies should be consulted before launching a program.

Anyone who might be interested should contact Mochary at matt@mochary.com.

Things to consider before training to be a trucker

Although many people love the freedom of the road, being a long-haul trucker is not an easy life. It can be lonely and wreak havoc on families and relationships. (Although team driving as a couple may be able to help take care of the relationship problem.)

From our research we learned a few things to pass on:

  • Working for a smaller company can sometimes mean higher pay and an employer that may value its drivers more.
  • Be wary of being an independent contractor, as it can in many cases be a financial nightmare.
  • Depending on where you’d like to live, driving a public bus may be the best option. If not that, a truck driving job which allows you  to come home each day can be better for your personal life and health than being a long-haul truck driver.
  • Not being on the road for extended periods of time will also offer an opportunity to attend night school or other retraining programs in the evenings and on weekends. This is something to consider, since  self-driving trucks may eventually force truckers to consider other career options.





Hot Chicken Takeover improves lives of those in reentry

Hot Chicken Takeover

Some of Hot Chicken Takeover’s team members.

You might not realize it when you dig into a plate of spicy chicken wings at Columbus, Ohio’s Hot Chicken Takeover (HCT), but this restaurant serves a side of social justice along with its popular cuisine. It’s just one more proof that a business can be successful while at the same time helping those leaving prison get their lives back together.

After tasting Nashville’s famous hot chicken and realizing that there was nothing like it in Columbus, founder Joe DeLoss and his wife Lisa began serving their own version out of their car in a parking lot on weekends. It became a hit, and soon the two found space indoors on the second floor of the city’s North Market, where they were able to serve customers on a more regular basis.

DeLoss took his experience as the founder of a sandwich catering business – a subsidiary of Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio that hired employees from homeless shelters – and applied it to his new restaurant.

Majority of staff members have been incarcerated

“Seventy percent of the staff is previously incarcerated,” says Cam Williams, the company’s director of operations. “Through media and referrals we attract people who may not have luck finding work elsewhere.”

Hot Chicken Takeover also receives referrals from organizations, including Kind Way, led by a former warden at three Ohio correctional institutions. She put together a group of business leaders who go into prisons and work with people while they’re still inside and provide a support system when they get out.

The staff of HCT operates the restaurant as well as a food truck that serves chicken at events and Columbus Crew professional soccer team games.

In addition to the food it serves and the community it creates through communal dining – the restaurant’s tables are all long and to be shared – HCT carries out a social mission to help formerly incarcerated individuals launch new lives upon release. As they say, “It’s about more than just chicken.”

“We provide financial, personal and professional growth opportunities,” says Williams. “We have a benefits coordinator who connects people with local resources, including Kemba Financial Credit Union, which helps them open a bank account for savings and has even been working with our staff who have been incarcerated for crimes including check fraud.”

Other employee benefits include a savings match program for people who are saving for things like transportation and education, with a 2-to-1 match of up to $700 per year. Employees are also offered an opportunity to meet twice a month with a financial coach to help them plan their financial future. Community partners help secure housing if they need it, because as a university town, it can be difficult to find affordable housing with good landlords in Columbus. And if necessary, there’s a licensed counselor to help with personal crises as they arise.

Although Hot Chicken Takeover provides its employees with an unusual level of services, Williams makes it clear that they’re running a business not a charity.

“We don’t see it as charitable,” he says. “The only thing we do that is charitable is give people a chance.”

Hot Chicken Takeover has high employee retention rate

And the effort pays off in dedicated employees. “We’re sitting at 60% retention. The industry standard is 100% to 150% turnover,” he says.

Although the company plans to operate another restaurant by the end of the year and is currently looking for a location, HCT has its sights set on something greater than selling chicken – hopefully starting a consulting business to help other companies do what it is doing.

“We’re not in this to be restauranteurs,” says Williams. “We’re passionate about expanding the human resources model that we have. We see it as a replicable system that other restaurants or warehouses could include in their business. We’re justifying what we do as being an economic solution not just doing something good. It’s a business that directly benefits from our social mission through retaining employees and not having to retrain them.”


On-the-Job training offers funds for employers to hire ex-offenders

Computer Training ClassOn-the-Job training – in which the wages of hard-to-place employees are partially paid with government and other funds – provides an opportunity for those in reentry to enter the workforce. The challenge can be that it takes cooperation from employers, and most employers are completely unaware of the training and the incredible benefits they can receive.

The good news is, however, that by getting the word out and educating employers on the existence of OJT, more ex-offenders would become employed, and they could get jobs more quickly. In fact, Workforce One, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration (ETA), has created free resources to help spread the word about OJT.

The program basically works like this. Employers hire hard-to-place employees with the promise that they will train these employees for whatever job they’re being hired to do. In return, the wages are paid – usually partially – by federal, and sometimes state or private, funding.

On-the-Job training programs work in a variety of ways, but the funding is through the Workforce Investment Act, which was established in 1998 during the Clinton Administration to get businesses involved in workforce development.

In some cases, OJT is administered by state employment agencies through One-Stop Career Centers or other means. In others, it is carried out by nonprofit organizations.

Employment can be in the public, private or nonprofit sector, but before anyone can participate in OJT, they must receive pre-employment counseling, a comprehensive assessment or some sort of “intensive service” from a case manager or employment counselor. This might include developing an individual employment plan in which the participant identifies their employment goals and objectives and determines how to reach them.

Employers sign a contract specifying the terms of the training. Usually half of that employee’s wages is paid during a specific training period, which lasts varying amounts of time, possibly from four weeks to six months, depending on the employer and the program. In some programs, a state will kick in the difference and pay 100% of the wages, usually for a shorter, more intensive training period and occasionally nonprofits come up with more than 50% of the wages, as well. The end result ideally is that the participant is hired in a permanent position.

In Las Vegas, OJT is administered by a range of nonprofits, including GNJ Family Life Center, an organization designed to use federal funds to train job seekers. Last year, it was awarded $1.8 million dollars – $1.2 million to train adults and $600,000 for youth.

Here’s how it works. “We have an OTJ training program for the more difficult-to-place clients,” says Bonita Fahy, an ex-offender who works as a career specialist at the nonprofit. “Between 50 percent and 90 percent of the employee’s wages are paid up to a certain amount.  If the pay is $11 hour it’s a $3,000 reimbursement. And if it’s $14 or more per hour, it’s a $4,000 reimbursement.”

If an employer wants to hire one of her clients who is not quite qualified for the position, Fahy goes out and inspects the jobsite and develops a training plan. For example, if it’s a call center position, she’ll train her client on up selling – encouraging people buy more than they intended to buy – and policy and procedures. She also develops a training plan to benefit both the employer and new hire.

The training usually lasts seven weeks. “We don’t tell the employer how to do the training. It’s what they’re already doing. We ask the employers to keep people at least nine months, however,” she says.

Her organization has placed people in doctors’ offices, nonprofits, behavioral health agencies, warehouses and electric companies. Although GNJ Family Life Center is located in Las Vegas, it can’t work with hotels, because most of the hotel jobs are unionized and by the terms of WIA they can’t pay union dues, according to Fahy.

Although another agency in Las Vegas works strictly with formerly incarcerated job seekers, Fahy deals with people of all types. About 30 percent of her caseload is ex-offenders.

If you’re a job seeker and want to find OJT opportunities, check with your local One-Stop Career Center.

If you know of an employer who might want to take advantage of OJT funds to hire you, check with your local Workforce Investment Board, which administers the funding, to see what they need to do. If you’re working with a job developer who is unfamiliar with OJT training, tell that person to contact the WIB on your behalf.

For examples of some of the OJT programs out there, check out the following sources:

GNJ Family Life Center

Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow – Reentry Initiative

Workforce Investment Act OJT requirements

Workforce One

State of Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services

Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services

Missouri Division of Workforce Development


STEM training can lead to science, technology and engineering jobs

MP900439299There are a tremendous number of jobs out there that pay solid salaries, don’t require a college degree and are in high demand. These are jobs in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

In research for his new report, The Hidden STEM Economy, Jonathan Rothwell, a senior research associate and associate fellow at the Brookings Institution, found that one out of every 10 jobs in this country is a STEM job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree. In 2011 the average salary for these positions was $53,000.

While most of these STEM jobs do require some training or education, community colleges and companies across the country are setting up programs and courses to train people to fill the rising demand. An estimated 12 percent of all online-advertised job openings in average metropolitan areas is for STEM jobs that don’t require bachelor’s degrees, and in some areas the percentage is even higher.

So what exactly are these jobs? They can be anything from an industrial machinery mechanic to an electrician or a machine programmer to a welder. Production worker supervisors, pipefitters, welders and carpenters also fit into this category. As do sheet metal workers. Many STEM jobs, especially in high tech regions like the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston and Austin, Texas, may be more advanced, dealing with various aspects of the biotech industry, for example.

And how does one learn how to do them? Because of increasing demand and pressure from industries that need more and more skilled workers each year, community colleges across the country have set up STEM courses and programs. Many of these programs are supported by companies and serve as training grounds for jobs in those companies, which hire many of the graduates.

For example, Delaware Community College outside of Philadelphia has a $60 million Stem Complex with 12 laboratories used to train students in a variety of fields through local industry partnerships. It offers an extensive array of programs, some leading to an AA degree and others to a certificate, which can be completed in a year or less but still provides enough training for many jobs.

Among DCC’s offerings are associate degree programs in automatic manufacturing/robotics technology, construction management technology, energy technology and machine tool technology. Certificate programs include computer aided drafting, industrial production technician, machining operations and lathe and mill CNC programming.

Solano Community College, with campuses in Fairfield, Vallejo and Vacaville north of San Francisco, offers an industrial biotechnology program that prepares students to work as production technicians dealing with pharmaceutical products in the biotech industry.

The program includes an associate’s degree and a certificate program, as well as the IBIS (Industrial Biotechnology Intensive Sumer Boot Camp), which condenses the year-long certificate program into two months. The program feeds graduates to such Bay Area biotech companies as Genentech, Novartis and Bayer.

These are just two examples, but there are others elsewhere. Here are links to some of them:

Edmonds Community College, Lynnwood, Wash.

Montgomery County Community College, Blue Bell, Penn

Inver Hills Community College, Inver Grove Heights, Minn.

Roxbury Community College, Boston, Mass.

Hagerstown Community College, Hagerstown, Md.

To find a STEM program at a community college near you, contact your local One-Stop Career Center.


CalPIA trains prisoners to enter workforce upon release

Offenders make American flags for the State of California at the Central California Women’s Facility, Chowchilla.

Although paid work done by prisoners has been criticized as “slave” labor that steals jobs from those on the outside, prison employment programs keep many prisoners busy and potentially out of trouble, while at the same time providing training to help reduce the monetary and social costs of recidivism.

If you have a relative or friend in prison, encourage them to enroll in one of these programs, if they haven’t already. It could be very beneficial for them to do so and provide the necessary skills to become employed and stay out of prison in the future.

In California, for example, the state-operated California Prison Industries Authority provides employment for 7,000 inmates in more than 60 service, manufacturing and agricultural industries located in 22 prisons. These industries produce more than 1,200 products that range from coffee and baked goods to furniture and eyewear.

Accredited certification programs for a wide variety of skills help inmates develop the experience and knowledge they need to get a job after their sentence is complete. Among the most successful of these certification programs is the Career Technical Education program. This program trains participants at Folsom State Prison to be carpenters, ironworks and laborers and at the California Institution for Women, Corona, to be carpenters.

“We partner with labor unions, and when our guys (and gals) get out of the program they become apprentices,” says Erick Reslock, chief, external affairs of the CalPIA. “We give them a tool belt and pay their union dues for the first year.” During their training they do facilities maintenance for such underfunded government agencies as the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Folsom Division. Inmate employees get paid between 30 and 90 cents per hour, but after release will move into salaried apprenticeship programs.

At the California Institution for Men, Chino, CalPIA operates the Marine Technology Training Center, a commercial diving school which trains participants to be divers and underwater welders and is also part of the Career Technical Education program. “Upon release, they get immediately hired on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico at six-figure salaries,” Reslock says. They’re also being hired to do underwater welding for the Port of Los Angles. With 2,040 hours of training it’s a rigorous curriculum that produces not only skilled employees but ex-offenders who stay out of prison. Only two people who participated in the program have ever been re-incarcerated, according to Reslock.

Also part of its services to inmates, CalPIA offers assistance in resume writing and developing interviewing skills. It also helps them get a California driver’s license or ID and directs them to such resources as the California One-stop Career Centers for further help with their job search.

CalPIA spends $96 million a year on raw materials for its industries, and when buying those materials, the authority gives preference to companies that hire ex-offenders, just one more employment-related benefit for those who’ve been through the system.

For more information, check out www.pia.ca.gov. For information on jail industries across the nation, go to www.nationalcia.org.