The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office recently piloted a new program designed to assist inmates with employment skills.
Under the direction of Cpt. Jason Sloderbeck, who was appointed the jail division commander in 2010 by Sheriff Mark Bowen, eight employers met with inmate students to hold a Networking Day on May 2.
Bowen, Sloderbeck and the jail staff hope to help inmates break the cycle of incarceration. Recently a life skills class was added to the curriculum.
“Statistics show that 80 percent of jobs are landed through networking,” said Sara Gutting, director of the life skills class. “This part of the curriculum focuses on teaching the students how to network with community and business leaders. With our students having multiple barriers, teaching them to network is the most valuable tool we can offer to them to help them increase their opportunities for success.”
Companies and organizations present for the Networking Day were AT&T, Hare Chevrolet, PACE (a social service group for offenders), Lowes, Smart-IT Staffing and Diversity Lawn Care. Inmate participants were not offered jobs but instead learned how to present themselves and speak with people in the community that might lead them to gainful employment. Skills such as active listening, eye contact, asking pertinent questions and knowing how to use information were stressed and practiced as students met with representatives from the companies.
A transition program was added to the jail two years ago and is taught by Patrick Jamison. The focus of these classes, aimed at inmates who will soon be back out in society, is to teach not just employment skills but also to work on barriers to success that may have led to incarceration in the first place. Sessions on anger management, conflict resolution and goal setting assist inmates in knowing what to do and who to contact when they are released from jail.
For more than 20 years, inmates have been able to complete their GED while serving time. Gutting, who heads the program along with Maureen Keller, acknowledged that the class is driven by the needs and interests of the inmates. There are two classes working toward their diplomas through the program which focuses heavily on math and writing along with reading comprehension.
Avoiding recidivism and repeat incarceration is of prime importance in reducing the jail population and assisting inmates avoid repeating past mistakes. Through education and employment skills, the Hamilton County Jail staff hopes to break down barriers preventing success and offer those they come in contact with a better hope for the future.