Through funding from the US Department of Labor to Ohio Means Jobs Cleveland/Cuyahoga, Towards Employment (TE) provides services under Reentry Integration Services for Employment, or RiSE. RiSE is a voluntary program, housed at the Euclid Jail, that provides comprehensive job readiness services for male adults serving court sentences from Cuyahoga County. Participants receive services both pre-release (while in jail) and post-release. Post-release, individuals continue to receive case management, supportive services, job readiness training and career coaching so they are connected to jobs and can avoid re-offending. RiSE has had 159 participants have completed pre-release workshop through June 2017.
RiSE pre-release services are provided by three TE staff members – Steve, Anita and Chelsie. They took time out of their schedules to write about their work with RiSE participants for the TE blog.They are joined by Evan, a RiSE graduate.
I am the primary facilitator for all the workshops and activities RiSE offers inside the Euclid Jail. Jail tends to be a bit of a revolving door, with individuals entering and being released from the facility daily. A basic requirement of joining our workshops would simply be being in the facility for the class’ six-week duration. The goal of the workshops is for inmates to be prepared to start looking for work as soon as they are released. We test for skills and aptitudes in reading and math and Grit testing (a measure of resilience.) All assessments and testing are completed in tandem with resume writing, job search skills, job readiness training and mock interviewing. RiSE is completely voluntary. Once someone is determined to be eligible, I provide an orientation about the in-house program and the services that Towards Employment offers. If they are interested, they schedule time with Anita, who completes their assessment. We have morning and afternoon classes, because many inmates are involved in other activities and programming while incarcerated. Beyond workshop, for those still serving time, we provide ongoing case management and Job Club, where we continue to work on interviewing skills (including soft skill development), job search and resumes.
Anita, Case Manager
Having a criminal record or being incarcerated is clearly a barrier to employment. In most cases, there are many things that stand in the way of these individuals finding and keeping jobs. As a case manager for prerelease participants, my focus is eliminating those other barriers. I complete assessments, sitting down with each participant to review their family status (if they have anyone to go home to when they get out, if they have children or other dependents) their financial situation, any previous history of substance abuse etc. Once needs are identified, we create a plan for success once they are released. I search for housing, help them navigate the court system, tell them how to go about getting their driver’s license back and help them connect to benefits and resources that can make their return to their communities easier. The goal is to lessen the burden of barriers they have when they get home, so they can focus on their job search and be self-sufficient. The work I do with participants while they are incarcerated feeds directly into Chelsie’s work with them once they are released.
Chelsie, Career Coach
I get to know all of our participants while they are in workshop inside the Euclid Jail and then I support them after they reenter the community. Getting to know them well is critical to being able to support them upon release, when the main goal is finding employment. I work with everyone individually to review educational background and work history and find out their goals for the future. Just before their release date, we meet and set a date for the first post-release appointment and I also schedule them to enter workshop at Towards Employment (TE). I write many letters to probation officers and judges, both before and after participants are released telling them about TE. It is a huge benefit to participants to be enrolled in workshop while in jail and after release. Obviously, it helps them stay focused on getting a job, but it also makes that process a little less scary, knowing that TE was there for them when they were incarcerated and are still there for them once they are released. RiSE provides consistency for people who often don’t have much stability in their lives. After post release workshop I stay in touch (with the participants), usually twice a month. I do a lot of career coaching in these calls or meetings. We’ll talk about how to handle problems that may arise at work and how to get to the next step in their careers. The single hardest thing about my job is just how many of these individuals have substance use / abuse issues. I encourage each participant that has a history of substance abuse to get treatment in both pre-and post-release. TE has several partner organizations where I can refer the participants that need it for either in-patient or out-patient treatment. But I also just try to be there for them and support them on their road to recovery.
I first heard about Towards Employment when I was in Cuyahoga County Jail. I was told it was a program that could provide individuals with a second chance once released. I was interested because I wanted to get my life back on track. I went through the 6 week program while incarcerated and kept working with TE when I got out. I started doing some of the things that had gotten me in trouble in the first place and there was a period of time where I wasn’t in contact with TE at all. I ended up in a treatment center for drug addiction and when I was about to be released, I called Mr. Foglio up and he had me come right back in to TE for another chance. That second chance was amazing to me. I worked a couple different jobs that didn’t work out, but TE stuck with me and continued to provide support. Then I was hired as Bellhop at the Hilton Downtown and within six months, I was promoted to Bell Captain. It’s the greatest job I’ve ever had. I like the work and my team. Since starting this life changing career, I was able to obtain my own housing and even purchase my very first car, which I would have never thought I would be able to do in my life. I have come so far in my life, I don’t even consider going back to my old ways. I look forward continuing my career at the Hilton and hope to save enough money to purchase my first home. Before TE, I had no hope for a career or to accomplish much. If you had asked me a year ago, if I would have my own car, buy my own clothes, pay my own bills and have a career, I would have told you that you were crazy. Life has changed a lot for me and obviously, being in treatment and staying sober are the biggest thing, but TE has given me options, hope and a career with a great company.
Funded in part from a U.S. Department of Labor grant; RiSE is a collaborative partnership that includes Cuyahoga County Corrections, OhioMeansJobs Cleveland | Cuyahoga, Towards Employment, Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry, Recovery Resources and Project Learn.