Inmates learn job skills through Building Maintenance Program
Story by Don Chaddock, InsideCDCR
Video by Jeff Baur, CDCR TV Specialist
Inmates at Sierra Conservation Center are building a better future – using hammers, nails, chisels and trowels.
Through the institution’s Career Technical Education Building Maintenance Program, rehabilitation is the key to assisting inmates when they return to their communities. The program is also sometimes referred to as Construction Technology.
“To be honest with you, I’ve gotten out before and had no training. I would always go to parole and be stuck wondering what’s next,” said inmate Arturo, who is enrolled in the program. “Now not only am I going to parole with credentials but I’ve actually checked into some places that are ready to hire me because of my certificate showing that we’re certified.”
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Arturo said he’s learning skills ranging from plumbing to bricklaying.
“We have learned many things,” he said. “We learned how to build homes. We learned how to lay bricks, cement, sheet-rocking, tiling, everything.”
The classes last 18 months.
He said he also learned self-confidence.
“When I first came to the class, one thing I learned about myself is I can do it,” he said.
Tim Wyman, Building Maintenance/Technology Instructor, said relevant job skills are crucial.
“This is really the kind of program that fits into the work being done on the streets. So the more things you can bring to the table, the better chance you have of getting a job,” Wyman said. “I’ve seen people going from really being afraid to do anything to being out there building the buildings they’re doing now.”
For those involved in the program, the solution is long-term and will have a positive impact on the state down the road.
Another inmate said his future is what’s important and he’s learning the skills to become a productive member of society.
“I want to learn from this experience. I may be in prison right now, but I want to take this on the outside and further my future,” he said.
Wyman said rehabilitation is the key.
“Any person you can take out of being an expense to the state and then they become a worker and then earn a living and then they’re paying taxes, it’s a huge difference,” Wyman said. “The trades our students learn are in jobs that earn a living wage. The industries we are tied to hire parolees. If the inmate student wants to succeed, it is up to the individual. They can learn our skills and go excel in the world.”
It costs the state an average of $62,000 a year to keep an inmate in prison.
Wyman said he had two graduate in the program’s first year-and-a-half and one of them landed a job as a maintenance man at a business park in Fresno.
“It is really a great feeling to see an inmate ‘get it,’” Wyman said. “I have had some students show no interest and then start to excel after seeing what other students were doing.”
For Arturo, he’s planning to continue in the construction field.
“If you see me ever in prison again, it’ll be as a building maintenance teacher, not an inmate. I can tell you that,” he said with a laugh.