The doors of the newest America’s Job Center of California in San Diego officially opened on February 26 at the East Mesa Reentry Facility (EMRF). The career center is part of SDWP’s Reentry Works San Diego program, a partnership between SDWP and the San Diego County Sheriff’s and Probation departments, and will provide comprehensive career services to inmates at EMRF. The program’s goal is to serve 600 individuals with pre- and post-release employment services designed to increase employability and reduce recidivism.
Second Chance, the program service provider, welcomed staff from SDWP, Probation, and Sheriff’s at an open house to officially kick-off the career center’s opening. Second Chance is a nonprofit organization that provides job-readiness and life skills training, job placement, behavioral health and prisoner re-entry services, relapse prevention and sober-living housing for adults and youth in need.
“Second Chance was honored to be chosen to provide much-needed job-readiness, life skills and job placement services at East Mesa Reentry Facility, the first Job Center of its kind in San Diego County,” stated Second Chance President and CEO, Robert Coleman. “Ending generations of incarceration and poverty can begin with one person getting a good job. We are here to make that happen for anyone ready to work hard to achieve success.”
In the career center, participants can access a computer lab, career pathway information and employment resources, and receive case management service and attend workshops. In addition, there is business attire for inmates to wear during mock interviews with their peers, and actual interviews at employer job fairs within the facility. The case managers told of the transformative moment the inmates go through when they put on the suit. Their dignity, pride and hope become present in full force.
“This has been a strong partnership from the very beginning. Every partner came to the table at every level to make sure our program model would be successful,” says Andrew Picard, Director of Adult Services at SDWP. “We are moving light years ahead in this area because of the passion every partner has for helping the justice-involved successfully transition into employment and the community. While there is still much to be done, we should be proud of this first step and the team’s commitment to serving our community.”
In 2015, SDWP received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration to launch the career center at EMRF and continued post-release services in partnership with Probation. The grant award is part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release (LEAP) initiative, which provided $10 million in grants to demonstration projects in 20 communities within 14 states that provide comprehensive services to inmates pre- and post-release. The goal of the LEAP initiative is to integrate two services already offered by local governments: correctional facilities and workforce development programs.