Four women to participate in state’s first job training program for inmates – NBC Connecticut
For about four years, male inmates have been coming out into the community to work and train in manufacturing, setting them on the path to a career after incarceration. However, state inmates have never had the same opportunity: until now.
Four women will be released from prison and will be able to work at Whitcraft in Plainville, starting Friday, March 4. This is the first vocational training program of its kind for incarcerated women in Connecticut. Four women named Jessica, Judy, Shannon and Syndey will participate.
“I’m excited, nervously excited, but I’m excited,” Judy said. “It’s an opportunity that I feel like a gift given to me.”
The women will leave York Correctional Institution in East Lyme to report for work at Whitcraft, an aircraft manufacturer.
“I guess the best way to describe it would be to say, like a little kid on his first day of school,” Jessica said.
“I’m very proud,” added Shannon. “It makes me all the more determined to make sure this program succeeds.”
They are the first inmates to participate in a skilled manufacturing program for incarcerated women in Connecticut.
“We are paving a path not only for ourselves, but also for future women, to follow this same path. It doesn’t just stop with us. It’s also for all future wives,” Jessica said.
Whitcraft Chief Operating Officer Jacqueline Gallo said the company has partnered with Cybulski Correctional Institute for Men since 2018, bringing inmates to training and preparing for life after incarceration .
“We’ve placed dozens of them into full-time careers,” Gallo said.
The Department of Corrections had not allowed inmates at the women’s prison to participate in a similar program until the program was recently given the go-ahead.
“There has to be a security plan there, there has to be an operational plan. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that goes into all of this. And then the women themselves have to be prepared and vetted,” Gallo said.
Now that the program is approved, the four women will report to work daily. They will be escorted by an officer and train alongside Whitcraft employees, before returning to the correctional facility.
Every day they will manufacture aircraft engine parts, receive full pay and benefits.
“Whitcraft is taking a huge leap of faith to bring me in and say you’re worth it. Come work for us,” Judy said. “We are offering you a golden opportunity. It’s like the golden ticket.”
The goal is for the skills women learn while incarcerated to help them build careers for their future.
“Previously, the opportunities that women had to learn job skills while incarcerated, usually involved seamstress work or some sort of dry cleaning or cleaning job,” Gallo said. “So it’s really the first time they’ve had the opportunity to work in something that has an advanced skilled workforce.”
Jessica, Judy, Shannon and Syndey are all gearing up to re-enter society in the next few years. They believe that having a planned job will help reduce recidivism, and they all want to take advantage of this vocational training.
“Leaving here with a job takes a heavy burden off me or my family,” Syndey said. “I think it’s amazing that they’re giving us this chance to absorb all this knowledge and experience and get to grips with the craft.”
Different actions have put the four women behind bars.
“I struggled with drug co-dependency,” Jessica said.
“I ended up putting down roots on the streets, I started dealing drugs,” Shannon said.
These actions had an irrevocable impact on their lives and shattered their relationships.
“That day changed everything for me,” Judy said. ” I lost everything. My career, the love of my family members, I lost friends.
The women said they tried to make the most of their time in prison.
“Being incarcerated wasn’t necessarily easy, but I learned a lot of lessons and hit a lot of milestones,” Syndey said.
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Now that they have a new opportunity, they hope to learn skills and rebuild relationships.
“I never gave up, because I knew I had a few people who still cared about me, they still loved me,” Judy said.
They believe this program will help them work towards a better life when they reintegrate into society.
“Changing the way the prison system is run and giving us these opportunities to come into society and work, those are the embodiments of what second chances really are,” Shannon said.
Whitcraft has several facilities and Gallo hopes to expand this program in the future.
York Correctional Facility superintendent Trina Sexton also tells us she hopes other Connecticut employers will get involved.