By Bill Sessa, Public Information Officer
At a recent press conference with Caltrans, CDCR announced that a program that helps parolees cultivate job skills is expanding to Los Angeles, Fresno, Stockton and San Bernardino.
This year, the Caltrans Work Crew program will give 136 parolees an opportunity to earn a wage cleaning up roadside litter and to learn basic skills that will help them make a successful return to their communities. The work crew program has been running in Sacramento and the Bay Area for the last five years.
“This program is about a lot more than picking up trash,” said Colleen Curtin, CDCR Chief of Reentry and Community Services. “Many parolees have never had a regular job, and they learn skills that many of us take for granted, such as the reward of earning a wage, the discipline of being on time, the teamwork to get a job done working with other people, and the motivation to come back at 6 a.m. the next day and do it all over again.”
Chief Curtin noted that parolees on the work crews, who are paid $10 per hour, save taxpayers money that Caltrans can use for highway maintenance or construction. The program also reduces recidivism, breaking the cycle of repeat crime, which also saves tax dollars.
Parolees are selected for the program only after a review of their criminal history and an assessment of their willingness to do the job. Those who are chosen receive safety training to prepare them for working adjacent to traffic, and to avoid injury and roadside hazards that can range from toxic material to wasp nests.
The litter-abatement program began as a pilot in Sacramento in 2009. Since then, 697 parolees have worked there, 70 percent of them going on to get part- or full-time employment, or to attend college or vocational programs full time.
The City of Oakland’s Golden State Works Program, which has operated since 2011, has enrolled 302 parolees, 87 of whom have moved on to full time employment.
Statewide, Caltrans spends $52 million a year on litter removal. Enough trash is collected from roadsides to fill more than 10,000 garbage trucks. Parked end-to-end, those trucks would stretch more than 50 miles.