There 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
$10-$20 can make a difference and provide funding to send job search books to prison and jail libraries and expand our tattoo removal outreach.