Offenders obtain state jobs before leaving prison
By Michele Kane, Chief of External Affairs
Photos by Manny Chavez, Photographer
California Prison Industry Authority
Incarcerated individuals are seeing first-hand the reality of prison to employment by receiving job offers before being released to their communities. A recent civil service exam and hiring event organized by multiple State agencies proved successful at the California State Prison, Solano.
“It’s taken a village, but we are definitely improving the lives of others,” said Randy Fisher, California Prison Industry Authority’s Acting Assistant General Manager over Workforce Development. “This event shows that partnerships work, and it is rewarding to see how people come together ensuring there is a smooth transition for men and women who are about to leave prison.”
Representatives from CALPIA, along with CDCR, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the California Government Operations Agency (GovOps), the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR), and the California Workforce Development Board all participated in the Civil Service Work Group.
Caltrans reached out for assistance in filling entry-level Highway Maintenance Worker positions.
“These are hard to fill entry-level positions due to geographical areas and high cost of living,” said Caltrans Assistant Division Chief Tom Hicks. “There is a gap in the workforce, and we can fill it which benefits Caltrans, the prison population, and all of California.”
In July 2019, at California State Prison, Solano, representatives from the partnering agencies provided support to a total of 39 offenders as they took the Highway Maintenance Worker civil service examination. At the end of the effort, all 39 exam takers successfully passed the exam.
In September 2019, a hiring event was held for those job candidates to interview for 10 available positions.
“You could feel the energy, excitement, and nervousness from the participants in the room,” added Hicks. “One guy said he was down for 20 years and this was his first job interview.”
Twenty-four men interviewed with 10 being chosen. Those 10 men received conditional job offers on the spot.
“We are trying to have a standardized process in the future that we can replicate this at other institutions and get more people hired,” said Bill Muniz who oversees the Prison to Employment Initiative for CDCR. “The overall mission is for people to have a job when they leave and never return to prison.”
The Governor’s 2018 Budget proposal included $37 million over three budget years to fund the integration of workforce and reentry services in the state’s 14 regions which is known as the Prison to Employment Initiative. The goal is to improve labor market outcomes of the state’s justice-involved and formerly incarcerated populations.
This is the fourth time the Civil Service Exam has been offered at CDCR institutions.
“In terms of reentry, employment is a major component of recidivism reduction,” added Muniz. “When someone comes out of prison and they have employment this is a huge boost in self confidence and personal worth.”
CDCR and CALPIA supports this aspect of the Civil Service Examination component of the Prison to Employment Initiative which will track successful outcomes and establish a process that can serve as a model at all California prisons.
All the men who received job offers will be paroling or released before March 2020.
“They are not going to be just dropped off at the curb, said Hicks. “I will be following through with them along with a career counselor.”