Monterey County Inmates Get Second Chance With Vocational Training Program

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A prosperous future can seem uncertain and often inaccessible to those who find themselves locked behind bars.

However, new opportunities are looming on the horizon for some inmates at the Monterey County Jail thanks to a new work and education program.

Soon-to-be-released Darison Randolph and Robert Turner say they feel one step closer to achieving their dreams of becoming a business owner after receiving their IN2WORK Serve Safe and Training Performance Compliance (TPC) janitorial certification .

In 2021, an Aramark Corporation program known as IN2WORK began at the prison to teach a group of inmates the basics of food and child care. The program also offers courses in substance abuse, coping skills, and anger management.

The goal of the program is to achieve successful rehabilitation and provide inmates with the basic education and job skills they need to become more marketable when seeking employment upon release.

While some of the early students were unable to graduate last year due to challenges caused by the pandemic, this year everyone involved in the program was determined to rise above it.

Randolph and Turner are two of seven participants who graduated from the program this week.

When they first saw the flyer in the facility calling for the enrollment of new students, they said they couldn’t pass up the opportunity. While in class, they learned cooking and food handling techniques.

Randolph says classes and exams haven’t always been easy, but now he’s eager to begin the journey to achieving his career goals.

He wants to open a food truck.

“My idea is to bring a mix of Mexican and barbecue. Getting that certificate with the food handler license and everything in between gives me a head start and puts me on the right track to doing some of the things I wanted to do and dream of, ”Randolph said. “I want to take my truck everywhere, but especially big city events like Rodeo.”

Turner is a week away from his release and says he will apply to local restaurants first, but also plans to someday own a food business.

One of the biggest obstacles for released inmates is getting hired because of their criminal record.

“I hope they know we have skills too. Just because we have a felony conviction doesn’t mean we can’t get a job done, ”Turner said. “If given the chance, I have always done well, and I hope we have a chance to show that we can do our job.”

According to Aramark statistics, only 25% of those formerly incarcerated do not have a high school diploma, GED or college experience. Their unemployment rate stands at 27% and more than half will be incarcerated within three years of their release.

Program manager Charles DaSilva of the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office says the program could very well change those statistics for the better.

“Some of these men and women do not have access to jobs,” he said. “We want to do everything we can on the inside to help this transition go smoothly for them.”

In addition to the program’s courses, DaSilva says career fairs are held twice a year to help inmates build better professional relationships with outside resources. Jobs and organizations often include vendors and retail businesses such as Goodwill, local agricultural industries, and even automotive industries.

“If we take them somewhere and some people say ‘Sorry we can’t hire you because of your background,’ then we’ve let them down,” DaSilva said. “When they come here to these career fairs, they’ll see a familiar face, so when they go outside and they know who they’re working with.”

Robert Tuner (left) and Darison Randolph are two graduates of the IN2WORK Second Chance Employment Program at the Monterey County Adult Rehabilitation Facility.

IN2WORK currently operates in 139 locations in 22 states and courses last between 8 and 10 weeks.

Graduates are also eligible for scholarships to continue their education at a correctional facility, accredited institution upon release, or pursue part-time or full-time undergraduate study and even business school.

Interested persons must be in good standing with their correctional facility to be enrolled in the program.

DaSilva says the goal is to expand the program to include more students and become a more permanent opportunity for inmates in Monterey County.

As for Randolph and Turner, they say they hope potential employers and the community will be more open as well.

“A lot of people make mistakes, as we all do, but getting out of here and having the opportunity to get back on our feet and have a valuable avenue to explore will help us be a better person and a more prosperous part. of the company, ”Randolph said.

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