Thursday, May 29, 2008

Prison Inmates Graduate from Construction Training

Union Partnerships Lead to Jobs and Lower Recidivism

FOLSOM - Representing the largest graduating class since the inception of pre-apprenticeship training in 2006, 75 inmates received diplomas and certificates during graduation ceremonies today at Folsom State Prison as they completed all or portions of a program that ultimately will lead to apprenticeships in construction when they are paroled.

"This pre-apprenticeship program produces jobs immediately when someone leaves prison, with the help of our union partners on the outside," noted Kathy Jett, Undersecretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, who gave the commencement address. "Men need a job and if it gives them money for their family, it gives them pride and a sense of accomplishment," added Jett, who is responsible for developing rehabilitation programs.

"When they put on that tool belt, get their union card and go to work on the day they leave prison, it changes their lives," she continued, while noting that the prison system under Governor Schwarzenegger "is investing more in rehabilitation now than we have in the last 20 years."

Inmates receive training from journeymen craftsman in various construction skills, ranging from welding and ironwork to finished carpentry. The California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) and three trade unions representing industry workers, act as partners in the program. Ex-offenders are then eligible for placement in apprenticeship jobs when they are released from prison.

Unions that participate in the program include the Northern California Carpenters Local 46; the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Local 118 and the Laborers Local 185.

To give them an additional helping hand, CALPIA provides each graduate with a tool belt so that they are ready for work on their first day of their new job and pays their union dues for one year.

"These guys have all the same skill as anybody else who comes to us looking for work," said Doyle Radford, of the Laborers Union 185.

New CALPIA research has shown that providing real, hands-on job skills, combined with employment upon parole, dramatically reduces the number of ex-offenders who return to prison. Since the construction pre-apprenticeship program began in 2006, only 18 percent of its graduates have returned to prison, compared with an estimated 70 percent recidivism rate of California's general population.

In general, the recidivism rate of all inmates who participate in CALPIA's 22 business enterprises is 25 percent lower than the general prison population, which helps reduce prison overcrowding and saves taxpayers an estimated $40 million a year that otherwise would be spent for prosecuting or housing inmates.

Forty of the inmate graduates today received diplomas documenting that they have completed the full carpentry pre-apprenticeship training, while most of the remainder accepted certificates documenting that they have completed training in ironworking or welding.

In addition, nine inmates were granted certificates for completing the training to install telecommunications equipment, the newest career program offered by the California Prison Industry Authority in a partnership with the Panduit Corporation.

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