Restoration Training Improves Job Prospects for Kentucky Inmates

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In2Work Program Director Nicole McVaugh congratulates Warren County Regional Jail inmates Lamont Edmonds, Michael Melton and Kelve McDowell as they graduate from the inaugural “In2Work” program offered at the prison by the food vendor Aramark on Wednesday, February 9, 2022, in Bowling Green, Ky. The program, which trains participants in food preparation, food safety, meal presentation and restaurant management, helps build the skills needed to a more solid basis for re-entering the labor market after release. (Grace Ramey/Daily News via AP)

PA

A 42-year-old father of two school-aged children, Lamont Edmonds just wants to support himself and his family.

Like many other parents, he is working towards this goal by learning a new trade.

Over the past three months, Edmonds has learned about food preparation, food safety, meal presentation and restaurant management.

It’s the kind of skill you’d expect to learn in a culinary school, but Edmonds and his classmates are learning in a different kind of institution.

He and his classmates showed up for class and worked in the kitchen while wearing the orange jumpsuits issued to them by the Warren County Regional Jail.

Edmonds, who said ‘drugs, alcohol and associating with the wrong people’ earned him a stint in prison, was one of five inmates to take part in the inaugural In2Work program offered to the prison by his food vendor , Aramark.

Four of them – Edmonds, Brian Kessinger, Kelve McDowell and Michael Melton – were recognized on February 8 for completing the program which they hope will lead to a smooth transition from incarceration to constructive living.

“I’m just looking for a better life,” Edmonds said. “I want to take care of my family. I should go out this year and I would like to have a job immediately.

It’s a goal for inmates that’s shared by Warren County Jailer Stephen Harmon, who has launched other rehabilitation programs to help prevent inmates from recidivism.

“It’s definitely an addition to our back-to-school services,” Harmon said. “People who have gone through the program have done so for the right reasons.”

Harmon said WCRJ is the first county jail in Kentucky to participate in the In2Work program that Aramark launched in 2009 and has rolled out to 175 locations in 27 states.

Aramark, the food vendor at Warren County Jail since 2018, started the program as a way to reduce the cycle of recidivism.

Bob Barr, Regional Vice President of Corrections for Aramark, said, “The In2Work program is an opportunity to help develop marketable job skills through restaurant and retail training.”

Participants can earn certification from the National Restaurant Association, increase their chances of finding employment upon release, and potentially win scholarships for themselves and their dependents.

“We provide a service to incarcerated people,” said Nicole McVaugh, director of Aramark’s In2Work program, who attended the ceremony which included a steak lunch. “We want to offer them this unique opportunity.

“We do it because everyone deserves a second chance,” she said.

It’s a chance that Edmonds and his In2Work classmates took.

“It was an amazing program,” said Melton, a 37-year-old who is in jail for burglary. “It helped me develop some skills and should lead to many different opportunities.

“I’ve worked in restaurants before, but it wasn’t deep financially. It builds on the skills I already had. I feel really confident to find a job when I go out.

Likewise, McDowell said the program opened his eyes to opportunities he could pursue once he is released from prison by the end of the year.

“I made a bad decision,” said McDowell, a 32-year-old Russellville native who landed in jail for drunk driving. “It cost me time away from my family and friends.

“Now I know I can walk into a restaurant and identify things that someone without this training couldn’t do. I have never worked in the restaurant industry, but I am interested in it now.

Interest in the program is growing, said Scott Vineyard, an Aramark employee who is director of food services at the prison and served as an instructor for the first cycle of the In2Work program.

The first local In2Work class was all male, but Vineyard said when new classes begin later this month there will also be one for female inmates.

“We have nearly 30 applicants for the next course,” Vineyard said. “We had one from the first internship already finding a job. This gives them the opportunity to enter the labor market. »

It’s an opportunity that many inmates are eager to take advantage of, according to Harmon. “We have a waiting list to get into this program,” the jailer said.