I have been working in the Department of Corrections system for a little over three months now. I didn't want the work, I didn't like it and I don't think I started off as a very good employee... from a DOC viewpoint anyway.
A System Of Forgiveness
Let me tell you about my workplace... it's a less than minimum security "Work Training Release Center". I use quotes because it's a halfway house..... people go out and get jobs, for some the first legit job they ever had. These people have served the majority of their time, have less than six months left and have a lot to lose if they are sent back to prison (yes technically it IS prison still, but there is prison and then there is prison).
I can't help but be the romantic optimist. I truly believe that's what the system was (is?) intended to be, I think it fails abysmally in the execution though. From day one I saw people being petty because they were told they could make decisions and the others were expected to listen. The residents (fine offenders, I just don't use the word often) just want to finish their time and leave with a little money when it's over. I don't see why they need to be the subject of pettiness of employees.
It HAS Changed
Some residents have been in and out of the system several times now. It's through talking with them that I have a picture of Work Release history that spans years and not the three months I have been there. They used to just show up and have no help getting a job and being back out in the world for a portion of the day. In that case they would just hang out.... watching tv and doing their assigned duties in the house. A few months would go by and they're kicked out.... homeless and broke. The statement on the picture reflected what happened next very well (and resonated with me deeply).
Today, they have more resources and assistance. The managing staff has made connections with employers in the area and most residents are able to find work very shortly after arriving. It's a lot of menial work.... laundry services, general labor etc, but it is getting them out in the world and allowing them to leave with something after their time is served.
Projects In Prison
I think there's room for more. So one day a resident is working back in the little garden area we have... and one of the directors is bringing in some topsoil. He drops off half off what the resident said would be needed and explains it's all that the budget would allow. By nature... I don't see problems, I start thinking of solutions. What comes to mind is compost heap. These guys are scraping their dinner plates into the trash... it can be used.
I know nothing about composting... the more I need to start thinking about resources to learn, the more I am thinking why can't Work Training really mean something? You don't need trained to do laundry, unload a truck or mop a floor. What changes a person after prison could be the same thing that keeps them well mannered at Work Release... something to lose.
Wouldn't it be great if that something was a life?Here in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, WA) it's soooo green focused right now. What if part of getting a compost heap together was training in making one? What if it involved specific certified training in various areas of the growing environmental industry? What if when they got out they had something to lose? Wouldn't something to go towards make it easier to leave something else behind?
This is early day three of the thinking and have not had much time to research a lot, look up various grants or which educational facilities might be talked to. I think there is really something to it though and would love to hear back with thoughts or ideas. Thanks to all!