Bay Area forum urged businesses to consider hiring trained former offenders
By Michele Kane, Chief, CALPIA External Affairs
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. delivered opening remarks at the Bay Area Employer Forum hosted by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA). More than 150 people attended the forum where state and local leaders discussed the benefits of hiring trained former offenders.
“I have talked with offenders who have experienced both failures and successes,” said Governor Brown. “And those who have experienced success attribute it to post-release employment and that was their turning point.”
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, EastBay Works and the California Workforce Investment Board also partnered with the event.
CDCR Secretary and Prison Industry Board Chair Jeff Beard spoke at the forum and emphasized that employment helps to stop the revolving door of offenders going back to prison.
“Employers benefit when hiring trained former offenders with valuable job skills and industry-recognized certifications,” said Secretary Beard. “Californians benefit because when a former offender secures a job it keeps our communities safer and saves the state money.”
The average cost to house a CDCR offender is over $62,000 a year.
“CDCR and CALPIA teach real-world job training to offenders behind prison walls,” said Charles Pattillo, General Manager of CALPIA. “When offenders leave prison we want them to succeed and never return.”
CDCR and CALPIA held similar Employer Forums in Los Angeles and Sacramento last year. Several hundred employers attended the forums and learned about accessing a pool of trained, skilled and certified workers. Also, business owners discovered how to reduce their recruitment and training costs through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and fidelity bonding options.
“This forum is critical to educating employers and the community about the benefits of hiring the formerly incarcerated who are highly-trained, licensed, and working to rebuild their lives,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “As a former small business owner, I encourage business owners to evaluate each person equally.”
Seven Bay Area employers received recognition for hiring former offenders including, Tri-CED Community Recycling, RocketSpace, Give Something Back Office Supplies, Nautilus Group, Turner Group Construction, Dig Deep Farms and Produce, and Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay.
Prophet Walker, a former offender, left the prison system, attended Loyola Marymount University and then became a Project Engineer. He encouraged employers to give offenders a second chance.
“Unlike popular belief, I didn’t want to come home and commit more crimes. I didn’t go to prison to learn how to become a better criminal,” said Walker. “I just wanted to come home and be productive and wanted to give back to my family and everyone around me.”
Walker says he’s committed to be a positive role model for his daughter. He’s also dedicated to helping those who are incarcerated. He is a founding member of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, which advocates for prison and sentencing reform and helps young people get a fresh start after incarceration.
“I wasn’t given a hand-out, I was given an opportunity. I am so grateful for the opportunity,” Walker added.
He praised Nautilus Group for giving him that chance. Walker explained how his first real job opened the door for other amazing opportunities, including a run for State Assembly and now President of PWC Development.
“I’m imploring you, along with the Governor of the State of California and everyone else: give people a shot,” Walker said. “The one thing that stops a bullet, is a job.”
What is CALPIA?
CALPIA trains over 8,000 offenders per year in service, manufacturing and agricultural industries in California’s penal institutions. CALPIA is self-supporting and does not receive an appropriation from the state budget. CALPIA participants returned to prison, on average, 26-38 percent less often than offenders released from the CDCR general population.