The US has the highest population of incarcerated individuals in the world and recidivism greatly impacts these numbers. The more people who return to prison after an unsuccessful attempt at reform and integration into society, the worse the overcrowding becomes. Failure to integrate not only negatively impacts society, but it also negatively impacts individuals who fall deeper into a cycle of despair, hostility, and resistance.
Programs like CMC Workforce work to change that dynamic.
CMC Workforce and the Community Based Organizations (CBO’s) we work with believe a majority of offenders returning to society have a much better chance at success if they are provided what they previously had been denied: education, a definite path forward and a career that leads upward, out of poverty. We also believe that support must continue beyond initial employment, as many of our trainees require assistance in navigating how to manage success long term.
We seek to interrupt the cycle of institutionalization, lack of direction and learned helplessness that too many previously incarcerated individuals experience. CMC Workforce and its partner CBO’s seek to build an individual up by helping them create a strong foundation from which they can launch into a successful career.
It begins with the individual. Success requires that the individual seeks to make a real change in their situation and fully commit to doing everything and anything required to make that change. To this end, we require an individual to demonstrate their commitment and desire to make real change in their lives.
Trainees who show a desire and aptitude for a construction career have to run a gauntlet of interviews, information sessions, a four-week pre-apprenticeship workshop and a four-week trial run with an employer BEFORE they are officially accepted into the Apprenticeship Program. If a student is dedicated and shows a willingness to work, improve themselves and take responsibility for their own success, they are then admitted into the CMC Workforce Program.
This slow and intensive approach to rehabilitation allows the individual to build a solid foundation, with the help of the CBO’s and CMC, that they are responsible for and can be proud of. It gives them the time and space to not only learn the trade they have chosen but also gives them time to slowly change their outlook and realize that their own potential is nearly limitless.
A.A: How did you discover CMC? What was the process like?
MC: I learned about CMC through Vivian directly. CMC works with the CBO Exxodus which helps people like me. Through an info session, Vivian helped me realize that I have a passion for construction. Vivian and CMC’s program gave me hope because it is difficult to find a job after being released from prison. Vivian’s knowledge about the industry is a driving force. I obtained my OSHA 30 and gained employment through CMC. The process of CMC’s general labor training and working on a construction site was smooth to me.
A.A: Where are you now? Where do you want to be five to ten years from now?
M.C: I’m a general laborer for an Open Shop construction company. I spend a lot of time on roofs. I love the city and have a strong appreciation for it. I see NYC from views most people just can’t. Before working in construction, I was in the federal prison system in Texas. I made bad choices as a teenager and I served my time. I want to have a fulfilling career and be a good citizen/person. I see myself as a future Project Manager for high rise buildings in the five boroughs. I am like a sponge right now absorbing every little bit of information and experience that I can get. I want to know everything about roofing as well. Ultimately, I want to get a degree in construction management which will help me reach my goals. My favorite part about this journey is that I know all of this is possible because I work hard and care about what I do.
A.A: What did you need when you came back home to NY?
M.C: I needed everything. Most people do when they leave prison. I was in the Federal Prison system so I needed to go to a halfway house for some time before heading home officially. New York City is crowded so most halfway houses/shelters are full. There are people who finish their sentences and just wait for a bed to open up at a halfway house or shelter. They stay in the system longer than intended. I was lucky enough to get into a halfway house right away. People coming home need everything you take for granted without knowing. I needed food, housing, clothes, shoes, toiletries, and MetroCards first. I had to learn how to use all the new technology (smartphones mostly) that exist now. You definitely need a job and guidance on how to adjust to living in society again. Counselors, community-based organizations, and workforce development services are important to life after. I received my G.E.D in prison but many people need that help too. People need support and someone pushing them in the right direction. They need someone to believe in them.
“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature's laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems to by keeping its dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared.”― Tupac Shakur, The Rose That Grew from Concrete