By Dana Simas, CDCR Public Information Officer II
Office of Public and Employee Communications
As he was busy grilling the hot dogs served at the recent Parolee Resource Fair in Mather, Jaime was eager to share his gratitude for redemption and opportunity. He’s one of the volunteers who participated in the Sacramento Community-Based Coalition (SCBC) Parolee Resource Fair that brought together 403 active parolees eager to learn more about community services.
Jaime, who was released in April, has participated in the SCBC since July and has already taken advantage of cognitive behavioral treatment programs, anger management, and WorkNet which offers job readiness guidance with resume writing and interviewing skills.
“I wanted to give back for the services I’ve received here,” Jaime said about volunteering to cook. “If SCBC wasn’t here, it might not have been possible for me to find the right groups. I’d be unemployed. My mom’s proud of me now.”
The event brought more than 40 various community programs together to offer parolees a one-stop shop of resources offering life skills, employment, job training, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, tattoo removal, education, childcare and child support services, healthcare and housing.
One of the instructors at SCBC overseeing the savory barbecue for the participants was Joe Wilson, who teaches landscaping to parolees.
“They’re focused,” Wilson said of the adult parolees. “They want to get what they can. We talk about their goals and they put in a lot of work.”
Wilson is currently focusing on providing drought-resistant landscaping training to parolees who must have at least a 90 percent attendance rate or face removal from the program.
Recently, Wilson and a group of parolees picked melons at Davis Ranch in Sloughhouse. The melons were donated to food bank programs in the Bay Area.
This year, over a million pounds were donated, an average of 75,000-80,000 pounds a month.
Another one of the event’s attendees seemed like an unlikely participant as he walked around snapping photos of the event, smiling.
Ernesto, carrying his professional camera around his neck, is just learning about his new passion for photography as he also takes advantage of the parenting classes at SCBC.
“(The program) is teaching me to be a better parent, something we may not acquire as kids,” Ernesto said. “There is so much we don’t know about parenting.”
Ernesto has made some big positive changes and credits the program and its ability to bring parolees together who are focused on rehabilitation for his success.
“There are guys here who come from different gangs, but here, it’s about bettering yourself,” Ernesto said. “I can take advantage of the opportunities here.”
Another parolee excited to take advantage of the one-stop educational event is Chris who was just recently released after serving 21 years in state prison.
“My needs are unique, but I didn’t come back (to society) a defective product,” Chris said. “CDCR gave me the tools I needed to be successful.”
Currently staying in a transitional housing facility, Chris is at the SCBC five days a week taking advantage of the myriad of programs offered, including how to discuss his conviction and long prison sentence.
“One week after I came (to SCBC), I did a mock interview where I learned to talk about my conviction,” Chris said. “(SCBC) taught me to give (potential employers) a reason to take note in a positive way.”
Chris was just recently accepted into the National Career Education Electrician program and is on his way to building his life on the outside.
The NCE Electrician program is a 10-and-a-half month program during which offenders learn commercial, residential and solar electrical systems. The program’s job placement rates are 70 percent or better.
Charles, another former long-term inmate, was released just a few weeks ago after serving 27 years in prison.
One of the unique challenges of reentering society after such a long time away is the lack of presence in the California Department of Motor Vehicle electronic system. If an inmate has been incarcerated for more than 10 years, the DMV no longer has a record, making it extremely difficult for a parolee to get identification.
“I’m worried about getting caught without identification,” Charles said. “Luckily, my daughter was able to get a hold of my Washington birth certificate and is sending it to me so I can get my ID.”
As soon as Charles is able to get his identification, he plans on seeking a welding job, using the welding certificates he earned while in state prison.
Despite such a long incarceration, Charles is excited to be back in the community and reconnect with his family.
“I appreciate every day,” Charles said. “Fortunately, I have a lot of family support.”
When asked why he chose to attend the SCBC Parolee Resource Fair he said, “If there’s anything that can help me be successful, I’ll take advantage. I hope to get on my feet. I don’t care if I have to scrub toilets.”