Terri Carpenter, Workforce Development Manager for SETA, speaks to the large gathering at the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce during the Sacramento Employer Forum.

Terri Carpenter, Workforce Development Manager for SETA, speaks to the large gathering at the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce during the Sacramento Employer Forum.

By Michele Kane, Chief, Office of External Affairs,
California Prison Industry Authority

Dozens of employers learned about the benefits of hiring trained former offenders at the Sacramento Employer Forum hosted by the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

The event, held late August at the California Chamber of Commerce in downtown Sacramento, received positive public and media attention.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, California Workforce Investment Board and the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA) also helped with the forum.

“Hiring former offenders is a win-win for employers and the general public,” said Charles Pattillo, General Manager of CALPIA. “Employers not only receive tax credits and insurance savings, but when businesses hire trained former offenders they help taxpayers save money and keep communities safer.”

Employers learned about accessing a pool of trained, skilled and certified workers.  Business owners also discovered how to reduce their recruitment and training costs through work opportunity tax credits and fidelity bonding options.

Former Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness served as the keynote speaker.

Former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness said he has seen how a job can transform a former offender’s life and steer a person away from crime.

Former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness said he has seen how a job can transform a former offender’s life and steer a person away from crime.

McGinness, who has more than 31 years of experience in law enforcement, explained how a job can transform a former offender’s life and how he has seen employment steer a person away from crime.

Chrisfino “Kenyatta” Leal encouraged employers to provide a second chance to an offender who has proven he/she is changing their life for the better.

“For employers who are considering hiring someone who is formerly incarcerated, I strongly encourage you to do so. It makes an impact on the individual, their families and our communities,” said Leal.

From the podium, Leal talked about how he walked out of San Quentin State Prison a free man in 2013 and how he worked from being a paid intern at Rocket Space, Inc., in the San Francisco Bay Area to earning full-time employment and becoming a Manager of Campus Services for the company.

Chrisfino “Kenyatta” Leal is a former offender who is now employed as the Manager of Campus Services for Rocket Space, Inc.

Chrisfino “Kenyatta” Leal is a former offender who is now employed as the Manager of Campus Services for Rocket Space, Inc.

“I went back to school and got my degree in prison and participated in many programs on the inside that helped me understand my positive role in the community and I thought if I can do something that adds value on the inside, I can definitely do it on the outside,” said Leal.

Throughout his incarceration, Kenyatta spent his time preparing for his future academically, vocationally and spiritually. Kenyatta was part of the first graduating class of the Last Mile, a successful program teaching business entrepreneurship using Bay Area professionals on a volunteer basis.

Leal concluded the forum by saying, “There are a lot of men and women who are incarcerated today and who are getting out. They have done the work while they have been on the inside and deserve a second chance to make it happen, how do we know this? Because I am one of them.”

There is a Los Angeles employer forum slated for Friday, Sept. 26. For more information, contact Michele Kane at events@calpia.ca.gov.