If you’ve called NCIA over the past three years, chances are the friendly voice you are hearing is that of Nora Talley. While you know that Nora is able to answer your questions or point you in the right direction … what you probably don’t know is that Nora is an actual Correctional Industries success story.
Nora was convicted for theft and incarcerated for nearly two years at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women in Jessup, MD. During this time, Nora had the opportunity to not only further her education by taking computer classes, but to also become involved in CI as a stock clerk in the commissary. She says that CI helped transform her from a selfish, uncaring person who did not take life, herself or others seriously … to a brand new person. CI taught her how to be responsible since she now had a job to go to everyday and tasks to accomplish … through this, she learned to hold herself accountable. And because she was receiving a paycheck, CI taught her how to budget her finances. Probably the most telling statement from Nora about her transformation is when she says that CI taught her that “being productive is better than breaking the law.”
In preparation for her reentry, Nora was first involved in a work-release program and then was referred to the opportunity at NCIA through her case manager. “This was a great opportunity for NCIA to practice what it preaches for reentry,” says Gina Honeycutt, NCIA’s Executive Director. Utilizing the skills that Nora learned from her computer classes and her past administrative experiences, NCIA hired Nora as an Administrative Assistant in 2008. Three years later, she is still going strong … and reports that her work at NCIA, as well as her work in CI, has shown her that life is full of opportunities and the best way to take advantage of those opportunities is through hard work and education.
On a personal basis, Nora continues to build on the successes she’s achieved since her release. She’s now married and is continuing her education by taking college classes at the local city college here in Baltimore. She also volunteers at a local women’s shelter. Her hope is to complete college and to one day start and own her own business. When she does, we will be sure to give you an update on NCIA’s very own success story!
If you had asked me ten years ago to define the word “reentry” or to discuss the impact it would have on my life, I wouldn’t have had any idea what to tell you. But after making several bad choices in my life,
I ended up spending nine years in prison. So, when the time came for my release, I got up close and personal with the challenges that face anyone reentering society. Now, I fully appreciate the meaning of the word and can truly tell you the impact it is having on my life.
First a little background. I had been an accountant prior to my incarceration and it became pretty clear that finding work in accounting after my eventual release wasn’t in the cards. I also felt that the prison system in general did little to prepare me for the obstacles that were present in our society – that is except for my participation in the inmate work program at Virginia Correctional Enterprises (VCE). Through VCE, I learned to utilize various software programs and gain hands-on experience in graphic design. I got a chance to learn a new trade and discover a job that I absolutely love.
But, what makes my story unique is that VCE was there for me as an inmate worker, there for me while on work release and literally continues to be there for me now that I’m free. I had worked for VCE the entire time I was incarcerated and had proven myself to be a valuable employee. So, in what turned out to be a “first” in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I was granted permission to enter a work release program maintaining the exact same job I had held as an inmate. Then, in January 2010, in yet another unprecedented move, I was presented with an offer to keep my job at VCE as a graphic specialist/production supervisor, but this time as a free person, working full-time with benefits.
Only those who have been incarcerated know how difficult life on the outside can be. Reconnecting with my children, obtaining housing, getting car insurance… and just trying to establish a new definition of “normal,” were just a few challenges I faced. Plus, I had no idea how the world was going to react to me as a convicted felon. So, the fact that my jobwas there for me… just as it had been the day before … provided immense comfort. So, when I think of “reentry,” I think of how difficult it would’ve been without my job at VCE. I’m living proof that VCE has truly lived up to its commitment to train individuals to make a difference in their lives upon release. They have given me the training, skills, and opportunity to be a successful individual and to live a meaningful life as a productive citizen. Thank you VCE! Working on the inside—succeeding on the outside … That’s me!
Jose Gonzales worked in CCi’s Computer Aided Design and DMV Call Center at Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility for eight years. After working in the shop for a few months, his demeanor completely changed. He worked on his own time reading computer and DMV manuals, and then enrolled in the vocational computer course offered through the prison. He received several promotions over his eight-year employment, and toward the end of his stay, he worked with CCi’s Chief Financial Officer to complete a budgeting computer program to track shop budgets of the entire division. Mr. Gonzales promised that once he was released, he would become a productive citizen. A year after his discharge, CCi received a phone call that he is gainfully employed in a call center for 1-800-FLOWERS.
Roy Jones reported daily to CCi’s Fiberglass shop at Fremont Correctional Facility where he learned the art and technique of creating fish tanks, alpine slides, and various other custom created fiberglass fixtures. As part of a pre-release initiative, CCi’s Fiberglass shop supervisor, Caleb Moore, hand-chooses those inmates who show promise of wanting to succeed outside of prison as well as possessing solid skill sets, and then sets them up with employment leads. Mr. Jones was one of those inmates who showed potential, and just after release, he landed a position at EJ Painting & Fiberglass. The letter Mr. Jones sent to CCi indicated he was working hard earning $12/hour, and was, at that time, currently working on a project for a Warner Brothers theme park.
Susan Reichert held the position of typesetter and programmer at the CCi Print shop located at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility. While incarcerated, Ms. Reichert trained for several years working with In Design, Quark, Illustrator and Photo Shop. Shortly after releasing to parole, Ms.
Reichert landed a very lucrative position as a Marketing Assistant with Hager & Meisinger, a dental tool manufacturer. Ms. Reichert designs promotional materials for print vendors and dental supply dealers. She monitors dealer ad deadlines and maintains specifications on each publication. Clearly, Ms. Reichert’s skill sets were derived from her training and experience achieved while working for CCi’s Print shop.
My name is Angie McDermott. I was previously known as Inmate #1103363. Wow, it feels funny to say that! What a great journey since my release 15 months ago. During my incarceration in Mitchellville, I had the wonderful opportunity to work for Iowa Prison Industries. This work program was instrumental in the success I am having today. I recently acquired a job in Warehouse Management that is identical to what I was doing for IPI. First a little history.
I have been out of prison since March 2009. I came out of prison during a very difficult time in our economy. I had job searched for over 3 months and finally acquired a job in the fast food industry. My great work ethic, a direct result of my IPI experience, helped me rise through the ranks. I had greater aspirations and knew the talents I learned at IPI would eventually land me a better position elsewhere. I had no idea how true that was.
In May of this year, the opportunity finally came up at a warehousing company. They needed someone with a very specific set of skills. This person not only had to be comfortable in a warehouse situation, but also with office, communication and leadership skills. These are ALL skills I gained at IPI. I worked for the print shop, CD ROM, and chemical department at the Mitchellville plant. Staff at the plant were so great at allowing me to gain skills in several areas. In my job today I utilize my inventory management skills, hazardous material safety, personal protective equipment knowledge, leadership, computer, customer service among so many others.
I think the best thing I have taken from IPI is a strong self-esteem that I am capable of performing to MUCH higher standards than I had ever known. This confidence shines through in my job today, putting the people I am responsible for and people I work for at ease. Throughout my employment at IPI, we were taught “You create your own opportunities.” This philosophy has stuck with me throughout this past 15 months. During my interviewing and hiring process I was honest with the owner of where my experience had come from.
His statement to me was simple and to the point. “Where the skills came from matters little to me, everyone deserves a second chance.” Yesterday he informed me that hiring me was one of the best decisions they had made and that my commitment and knowledge far exceeded their expectations.
Thank you IPI, staff and everyone who makes this work program possible. I am proud of where my life is today and the choices I make.
At 32 years of age, “Leo Jones” had been in and out of prison since he was nineteen. A couple of years ago, he decided it was time to make a change. He applied and was accepted into MINNCOR’s EMPLOY program prior to his release in February 2010. Leo attended training with EMPLOY staff who equipped him with employment tips and helped him with his resume. A few days after his release, EMPLOY staff met with Leo to give him a portfolio with specific, skill-matched job leads and resource material. Leo managed to land not one — but two part-time jobs and one full-time job! He is in the process of successfully accomplishing the goals he set for himself, including getting a job, buying a house and obtaining his driver’s license.
When EMPLOY was invited to speak at a case manager’s conference in April, Leo was asked to present his story to the group. He gladly volunteered and used the opportunity to discuss the challenges he faced and continues to face; his victories so far and how hard work and the skills he received from EMPLOY are helping him accomplish the goals he has set for himself.
Andrew had earned his Material Coordinator Apprenticeship and took his certificate with him to an employment interview. During the interview, he showed the certificate to the interviewer and was asked how he had earned this certification during his time of incarceration. After Andrew explained how he completed the Apprenticeship program and his actual work experience and job skills gained through PEN Products, the interviewer responded by saying, “that is exactly what we need here…” The interviewer even offered Andrew a better position at a higher wage than the job for which he had applied. Andrew shared with PEN Products that, “this is a prime example of how important the Apprenticeship Program is to the rehabilitation of offenders … it shows how it can help you find a job so that you may become a productive citizen once again.”
Among his brawny peers in the underwater construction industry, J. R. Childress is known as “A Chino Hand.”
Chino refers to the California Institution for Men in Chino, Calif., where Childress learned his job skills at the Leonard Greenstone Marine Technology Training Center — the world’s only training program for prison inmates seeking to become commercial divers. “That’s not a negative,” said Fred Johnson who has charge of the Training Center. “A Chino Hand is one of the best hands on the job. Because our training is so intense, we have priority hiring in the industry. Inmates who complete our training are guaranteed a job — before they leave prison.”
Most graduates earn $50,000-to-$80,000 in their first year out of prison, he added. Once they’ve had a few years experience, they pull in six-figure salaries.
That’s why only two Chino graduates have returned to prison in the four years Johnson has been running the program. And one of them was sent back only after it was discovered he used a false name while he was doing time. For inmates in California’s general prison population, 52.3 percent return to incarceration during the first two years after their release. Like most inmates who enter the program, Childress had no diving or construction skills. Today, at age 48, he does underwater welding, bracing and fabrication on the Texas Gulf Coast. And he’s also learned engineering duties on the boats that take workers to off-shore job sites.
The Association of Diving Contractors International finds worldwide placements for Chino’s certified graduates. Most graduates use their skills constructing bridges and off-shore oil drilling rigs, and in construction and maintenance work in ports and shipyards.
“The training was just excellent,” Childress said. “I never thought I’d be doing anything like this …and I like what I do, what I am.”
Clarence Bethea was booked into the medium security Men’s section of the Hennepin County Adult Correctional Facility on September 16, 2005.
Before his release on February 25, 2006, Clarence set into motion a plan and commitment to never return to jail. His plan included finding a number of positive people for support, taking advantage of the programming offered at the facility and making a commitment to change.
The determination and level of Clarence’s commitment to change was seen every day in the facility as Clarence made the most of every opportunity available to him including the Industry Program, Private Sector Work Program and Work Release Program. Toward the end of his sentence Clarence was moved to the minimum security Work Release building to start a new job and a new life.
Clarence has maintained a connection to the facility and has worked non-stop since his release to create opportunities for others who have found themselves in the same situation as he once did.
As Founder and Chief Executive Officer of 2nd Chance Enterprises, Mr. Bethea serves as an inspiration and symbol of hope to countless individuals, from ex-offenders striving for change, to CEOs of Fortune 100 corporations. Motivated by his own experience as a troubled youth and having overcome the stigma of incarceration, Clarence founded 2nd Chance Enterprises to provide dynamic and vital solutions for ex-offenders, corporations of all sizes, and entire communities.
After attending Bemidji State University on a basketball scholarship, Mr. Bethea secured employment as a driver with a trucking company in Eagan, Minnesota. His dedication and strong work ethic were immediately apparent. He consistently took on greater responsibility, and by the following year, he had assumed a lead managerial role within the company. In 2007, Clarence pursued one of his life’s passions, and joined a prestigious local basketball academy. As the lead sales person at the academy, he generated revenue in excess of $1,500,000 in less than three years.
With a veteran entrepreneurial spirit, Mr. Bethea began to explore the concepts of integrating ex-offenders into the work force via meaningful employment with established, successful companies, as well as providing ex-offenders with professional education and constructive tools for change. Utilizing strong connections in the community, the corrections industry, and with high profile corporate mentors, Clarence’s commitment to connecting ex-offenders with companies that recognize the benefits of employing them and providing opportunities resulted in the solidification of the 2nd Chance Enterprises business model. The young company quickly earned numerous accolades, including being the only staffing agency named as a semi-finalist in the University of Minnesota’s 2009 Minnesota Cup Award.
In addition to his professional endeavors and accomplishments, Mr. Bethea is a prominent and active citizen of his local community. He maintains a demanding schedule of speaking engagements and consultations with business and public leaders concerning the support for and mutually beneficial roles of ex-offenders in the community. As an avid basketball enthusiast, Clarence also coaches some of the state’s most talented young athletes in the elite youth basketball program, Minnesota Pump ‘n Run. Clarence lives in Burnsville, Minnesota with his wife, Jennifer, and their dog, Jersey.
At the age of 28, Tony was sentenced to serve a three year term to the Florida Department of Corrections. Upon release he recommitted within two months. This time, Tony was assigned to a PRIDE training industry. During the nine years with PRIDE, Tony learned for the first time in his life how to apply for a job, how to report to work, how to punch a time clock, how to work with peers and how to take instruction from Management. Plus, he gained a skill … furniture manufacturing and upholstery.
When Tony was preparing for his release he knew he had an opportunity to begin again – this time with his new employability skills gained through his nine years working in PRIDE and with the support of the PRIDE Transition Program. Through his Release Officer, Tony became a participant in the PRIDE Transition Program his first day of release. Obtaining housing, using public transportation, clothing/boots, and help getting his Florida ID and Social Security card were just some of the reentry assistance items that Tony took advantage of through the PRIDE Transition Program.
Within two weeks Tony was referred to an employer in his community that manufactured furniture and he has been working there for the past two years. His employer recently told us that even with the economic downturn they are able to utilize Tony’s skills to work in more than one department … all because of his PRIDE training.
Tony has kept his promise he made to himself while at PRIDE: He would get a job, keep the job, support himself, and keep out of his old neighborhoods and life of crime. He now has his driver’s license, a vehicle, and has moved into his own efficiency apartment. And, not only has he successfully established his housing, transportation and employment, he has even become active in church … driving the church van and helping with community activities.
Recently, Tony spoke at a rally of over 250 young people. At this rally, he shared his past and encouraged those young people not to follow in his footsteps and make the same mistakes. He was happy to also share that his turn around in attitude happened when he was assigned to PRIDE.
For some folks it takes three instances of incarceration before change takes place. Sandy was one of those people and found it difficult to hold herself personally accountable and make long lasting changes to her life. According to Sandy, if she had an alcohol or drug abuse problem, then she might have been able to see her actions and what needed to be changed. However, her real problem was dependency on others to define her and this was not easy for her to identify. She spent nearly 17 years from her first incarceration in 1991until her release in 2008 to complete her transition into a new life.
As many women in prison have experienced, her childhood was abusive and miserable. To cope, Sandy was able to redirect her feelings and energy to doing well in school, became a high achiever and depended on others to help her feel good about herself. She graduated high school, had completed two years of college and had held very good jobs. However, she was constantly depressed and never sought treatment. Getting a job was not the problem; keeping the job was a major problem. Additionally, marriage was an escape that never quite worked the way she imagined.
Since 1991, whenever Sandy had money problems, she forged and stole money from friends, family and employers. Change began at the Tennessee Prison for Women (TPFW) in 2003 when Sandy served time for a felony on a theft of property conviction. In fact, in readiness to go to prison for this third time, Sandy began mental health treatment and found a therapist who helped her to develop insight, develop plans for change and provided on-going support for her efforts. While at TPFW, Sandy became aware of TRICOR, knew she had job skills to offer and wanted the opportunity to practice these skills, be productive and stick to her plans for change. Sandy trained for three years as an inventory clerk in the distribution warehouse.
When asked what made a difference Sandy talks about the supervisors who coached, mentored her and treated her with respect. Through their guidance, she stayed with TRICOR longer than she had any previous program or job while in the community. She participated in TRICOR Life Skills and worked with the Field Service Manager in developing her release and employment plan. In 2008, Sandy initially received more intensive post-release case management support. Now, she and TRICOR post-release staff maintain periodic contact. She has worked long-term, temporary positions through one placement agency and recently transitioned to full-time employment in her accounts payable and procurement position.
She says TRICOR helped her to make a commitment, maintain that determination and continue to improve. In fact, she says now it’s really simple: go to work, do your job and be honest … all of which she does today.
Melissa enrolled in the EMPLOY program when she still had a few years left in her sentence. She knew she would have very little once she left prison and that she would have to make some major adjustments to acclimate herself to life outside. Melissa’s initial assumption was that finding employment would be the biggest challenge; however she quickly found work at a thrift store operated by a national non-profit organization. As the model store for other locations to follow, there is a lot of pressure to maintain a certain standard for delivering services. Melissa loves seeing the end result of everyone’s efforts; staying organized and being well-run is not easy, but it’s definitely rewarding. Homeownership is Melissa’s next big goal; she understands it will take some time and is prepared for the challenge. In the end, Melissa stated that it was comforting to know that EMPLOY would be there to help guide her so she wouldn’t have to go it alone.
Thomas Lane Jr. is employed as a Graphic Designer in the Marketing Department, where he is responsible for the layout and design of company literature, catalogues, website, and media. He was employed by MCE for three years while incarcerated and for five years since his release. Thomas is currently enrolled in a commercial graphics program with the goal of earning a bachelor’s degree. He is active in Toastmasters International and serves on the board of the Educational Workforce Training Coordinating Council for Correctional Institutions. Thomas is a founding member of a community outreach organization, “The Anointed Ex-Offenders,” which brings a message of hope to the incarcerated and at risk youth through song and testimonies. He views this mission as a form of restorative justice to give back to society for the choices he made in the past. While incarcerated, Thomas took advantage of a wide variety of opportunities including: academic and training opportunities, volunteer and service organizations, as well as a leadership role in a prison ministries program.
Deborah Thomas started her employment at MCE Headquarters on work release. She started as a Fiscal Clerk and earned several promotions to her current position as Lead Fiscal Clerk. She worked for MCE for eight years while incarcerated and for three years since her release. Since her release, she has married and started her own business — “Sweet Impressions.” A current goal Deborah is working towards is saving to buy her own home. During her work release employment at MCE, a supervisor noted her work habits, accountability and dedication, which in turn led to an interview for her first position upon release. MCE employment has been a major part of her new life.
Timothy Blair is a recent MCE hire who worked for MCE in the graphics plants for 10 years while incarcerated. He is a recent graduate of the CARES structured re-entry program. Tim credits the CARES program for giving him the skills necessary to compete for his position as Installation Coordinator. Despite his short tenure with MCE, he has worked on furniture installation projects totaling over $3 million. During his incarceration, he participated in a number of educational, treatment and service programs, as well as earning a Business Management Diploma with highest honors. He recalls the 10 years of MCE employment while incarcerated as providing a normalizing experience, approximating civilian employment and the “outside world,” as opposed to the somewhat chaotic prison life. Tim also proudly served his country as a U.S. Marine.
Sally Woods paroled out of Valley State Prison (VSP) in 2010. She worked in the CALPIA optical enterprise at VSP for nine years. Before release Woods was certified as a final inspector by the California Department of Health. She now works for a large eyeglass manufacturing corporation in California. Woods said, “I’m grateful for what CALPIA did for me. It turned a negative into a positive.”
Less Gross worked on diesel engines for CALPIA’s trucking fleet at California State Prison, Corcoran and was released in 2007. He now works as a welder in Las Vegas. Less said, “CALPIA treated us like people rather than inmates. The program taught me life skills to use in the world. CALPIA made me a leader.”
Jim Malarkey was paroled out of California State Prison, Sacramento in 2008. Shortly before release, he graduated from the CTE labor and construction program and went directly into a union apprenticeship. Malarkey credits his CTE training with helping him get off to a good start because he started with skills other apprentices lacked. Since leaving prison, Malarkey has held numerous union jobs and is now working on the Sacramento Light Rail extension line. Malarkey said, “Bottom line, you have to be willing to do it. You have to let the old friends go and set goals for yourself.”