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Supervisors Approve $2.2M Caltrans Agreement to Hire Former Inmates

The agreement aims to give a fresh start to inmates who often find it difficult to get a regular job after being incarcerated.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a $2.2 million agreement with Caltrans to hire former county jail inmates to work on state roadways.

The two-year agreement aims to give a fresh start to inmates who often find it difficult to get a regular job after being incarcerated, San Mateo County reentry coordinator Shirley Melnicoe said.

"Employment is key to reducing recidivism," Melnicoe said.

In San Mateo County, about 67 percent of female and 40 percent of male inmates say they were unemployed before going to jail, and inmates who had been employed most often lose their jobs, according to staff reports.

Former inmates -- both male and female -- who are selected to participate in the transitional employment program will be hired to work for Caltrans cleaning and maintaining state roadways in the county for 90 days, Melnicoe said.

The inmates will get the opportunity to earn a regular wage, gain valuable work experience and build up an employment history immediately after getting out of jail.

The program has the potential to assist 144 former inmates reenter society over the life of the agreement, Melnicoe said.

Menlo Park-based Job Train -- an education, job training and career counseling nonprofit -- will oversee the employment program on behalf of the county, and will also help participants find permanent employment after their time working for Caltrans is over.

Melnicoe called the agreement a win-win arrangement and said she hopes it can be a model for future reentry programs that put former inmates to work, teach them skills and ultimately help keep them from going back to jail.

-- Bay City News

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