Employment is the No. 1 way to keep a convict from backsliding into a correctional facility.
That according to the National Institute of Corrections, which stated offenders receiving workforce development services have a 33 percent lower risk of recidivism. By reducing the risk of a convict going back to jail or prison, it lowers the cost of keeping them incarcerated for taxpayers. Also, it increases public safety.
This is why the Chautauqua County Jail in partnership with the county Office of Probation has started the Ready, Set, Work program. The Ready, Set, Work program is a 20-hour intensive program created by the National Institute of Correction offender workforce development specialists.
CodyAnne Weise, county employment and re-entry facilitator, said it is a 10-session program that takes place over 5 weeks. The Ready, Set, Work program has had three graduates and three more inmates will be finishing the workforce development process in May, said Weise.
"Two of the graduates are still incarcerated and they will be getting out in May," she said. "One has been released and is meeting with a career facilitator at the one-stop at Chautauqua Works."
Weise said the program goes over several aspects about being hired once an inmate is out of a correctional facility.
"We talk about interviews. We go through mock interviews. I bring in someone from the community, a fresh face," she said. "It is fun, real-life experience for them. The mock interview is taylormade for a position they would seek."
Weise said the program also covers career assessment to find a job to fit each individual, how to fill out a job application and how to deal with the question, "Have you committed a crime."
"There are a lot of legal issues they have to deal with. One is obtaining a copy of their rap sheet," she said. "Most (rap sheets) have mistakes on them. They need to make sure the information on it is accurate."
Weise said Ready, Set, Work also talks about job retention and on-the-job training. Also, once an inmate is out and not at work, the program discusses how to budget money and how to deal with barriers like addiction.
"We talk about networking and surrounding your life with people who have a positive influence," she said. "I talk about how they can even call me. I'm there to support them."
Weise said the Ready, Set, Work program is the first of its kind for the Chautauqua County Jail.
"Before it was all informal. This is the first time we have a full-time re-entry coordinator," she said.
This year the Chautauqua County Office of Probation was awarded the 200 percent of Poverty Alternatives to Incarceration grant through the Division of Criminal Justice Services. The project is directed by Philip Evans, senior probation officer, and Weise. Officer Evans has been working for the Chautauqua County Office of Probation for more than 20 years. Weise interned at the Chautauqua County Jail while attaining her master's degree in rehabilitation counseling and was hired this year through partnership with The Resource Center. Together they provide programs to inmates at the Chautauqua County Jail and will soon be offering programs to individuals sentenced to probation in a community setting.
For more information on the Ready, Set, Work program, information on hiring an ex-offender, or volunteering to conduct mock interviews, contact Weise at 224-0539.