Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. was joined by former Governor James McGreevey and the Essex County Correctional Facility Civilian Task Force on Monday, May 8th, to announce new job training and continuing education programs for inmates at the Essex County Correctional Facility.
The two job programs include food handlers’ preparation and construction site safety certification; the continuing education programs are being done in partnership with Essex County College and All the Way Up Adult Education Center.
These initiatives aim to reduce recidivism by teaching inmates marketable job skills so they are ready to join the workforce when they are released.
“Using the time that our inmates have in our Correctional Facility to offer job training and continuing education opportunities will give them an advantage when they are released and help them more easily re-join the community. Preparing them for their future and opening a path to successful employment is a proactive approach to reducing recidivism,” DiVincenzo said.
“I appreciate the oversight and input from the Civilian Task Force and our partnership with Governor McGreevey to help create these initiatives,” he added.
“I want to commend the County Executive and his staff. Whenever I come into this facility, I am greeted with open transparency and access,” said James McGreevey, former Governor and Chairman of the Civilian Task Force at the ECCF.
“Through these programs, inmates will receive recognized credentials and skills that they can take anywhere,” he added.
"We need to stop the revolving door of recidivism. This initiative is doing just that by enabling students who complete the programs with certifications and skills that can lead to lifetime employment,” NJ Senate Majority Leader and Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said.
“The biggest challenge many of our inmates face is reintegrating successfully into the community after they are released from our custody.
Having marketable job skills and providing opportunities to enhance their education will help our inmates overcome obstacles, give them an opportunity to become self-supportive and independent, and help guide them down a path away from crime,” Essex County Correctional Facility Director Ronald Charles said.
Much of the funding for the programs is being provided through the Essex County Department of Economic Development, Training, and Employment. Director Anibal Ramos noted that in addition to the programs being offered at the Correctional Facility, inmates will have access to all the resources of the Essex County One-Stop Career Center and other support services offered through the department.
“This is a great opportunity to help inmates re-enter the community and reduce recidivism. It’s easy to lock people up, but this initiative will help people enter the workforce, become self-supportive, and hopefully find a life away from crime,” Essex County Prosecutor Ted Stevens said.
The new initiatives to help prepare inmates to re-enter the workforce include:
Introduction to Culinary the Fundamentals and ServSafe, Food Handlers’ Certification is an eight-week program, which is held twice per week with ten students in each class.
The course includes a cooking competition. Servsafe’s food handler certification will be implemented into the culinary program. The certificate received by the students does not have an expiration date.
“The certifications the inmates receive through this program will stay with them their entire lives. The certification can be the key to lifelong employment,” said Jennifer Langenbach, Resident District Manager of GD Correctional Food Services.
BTI (Brenshirer Technical Institute) offers 90 hours of training in construction safety. This includes OSHA 40-hour HAZWOPER (hazardous materials cleanup), OSHA 30-hour Construction Health and Safety, NYC DOB 4-hour Scaffolding, 8-hour Fall Prevention, and 8-hour First Aid/CPR/AED.
Each class will have between 7 and 40 students. The program is for 30 days with three hours of instruction per day. Training is held onsite and can continue post-release through remote or onsite classes. The inmate can apply for immediate employment or apprenticeships through the Essex County One-Stop Center, Welfare to Work, State-funded re-entry job training programs, and County job fairs. Students also have opportunities to obtain their CDL license.
Essex County College provides English as a Second Language, reading, and pre-algebra courses with a focus to prepare students for the High School Equivalency Exam and the GED exam. The courses are offered twice per week with 10 to 15 students per class.
“We see this as just the beginning of our academic contribution. We are happy to collaborate with Essex County and guide inmates in pursuit of their education because if we provide education today, we can lead them on a different path for the future,” said Essex County College President Dr. Augustine Boakye.
All the Way Up Adult Education Center, based in Newark, offers classes and individualized training in High School Equivalency Prep, Adult Basic Education, and Job Readiness Skills Training
“Getting a GED opens up a new world of opportunity for our students. The people we help here will have access to better jobs, improved financial health, and be able to contribute to their community upon their release,” said Christopher Jennings, Executive Director of the All the Way Up Adult Education Center in Newark.
The $416 million Essex County Correctional Facility was just 40 percent completed when DiVincenzo took office in January 2003. The County Executive restored order to the project, and construction was completed in just 12 months.
The transition from two antiquated jails took only three months, and the 2,100 inmates were transferred into the new facility over two weekends in March 2004. The Correctional Facility was designed to house about 2,424 inmates and is equipped with cutting-edge technology.