Updated: Aug 3
With a Sepeda Administration, opportunities for technical and vocational training at the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office (HSO) have the possibility to become modern reflections of the needs of the community individuals are preparing for release back into and the desires of those individuals to learn a skill in demand which would allow them to provide for themselves, their families and their communities. Expansion of vocational and technical programs, which will teach marketable, in-demand skills offering livable wages is a fundamental campaign platform point of this Administration.
Presently, the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office has a chair caning program. While certainly a trade, chair caning is not one in high community demand or one which offers a competitive wage locally. There is also a wood shop, which, pre-COVID completed limited contracted projects and made items for the facility but is largely underutilized now, particularly given the amount of space it occupies in the facility. Pre-COVID the HSO ran a manufacturing design class in partnership with a local community college. This program largely ceased during COVID because the facility was unable to pivot to remote learning in order to continue the training. Just recently, and only during this current election cycle, the HSO instituted a landscape program through a small Planning Grant aimed at recapturing a corner of the recreation yard once used as a meditation labyrinth which largely entails weeding and resetting walkway stones. The justice involved individuals in the care of the HSO are requesting more. More opportunities for training and advancement. More opportunity to stay active and engaged in hands on work, learning and job training. More access to training and skills in demand in the communities they were be released back into.
The facility should survey its community for both need and resources. The facility should assess its logistics as they relate to space and physical resources. The facility should ask its employees and those in their care for input and interest. Having a part-time grant writer on staff, responsible for applications and funding of these programs will allow the facility to meet the demands of the community and the needs of those in our care by offering opportunities for self-improvement and success. Since many grants require institutions to maintain negotiated attendance levels throughout the life of the grants in order to access the grant’s full monetary value, engaging with the individuals in our care to create programming that is information and interesting will ensure the long-term success of that grant funding and ultimately the program.
Hampshire County is a dynamic community with many opportunities for success in CORI-friendly post-incarceration job opportunities. Accessing Perkins Grants, or Skills Capital Grants in Massachusetts as Hampden County and Bristol County did earlier this week when grants were awarded, allow for the infrastructure and tools to be obtained to create programming. This will be a high priority of a Sepeda Administration. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has grants available for Adult Education in Correctional Institutions (AECI) which provide funding for the education, training and teaching portion of career and technical education (CTE) programs. These grants will be sought after. There are even DESE grant funds available specifically for youthful offenders which Hampshire County is eligible for but is not currently accessing. Obtaining a combination of these grants allows for meaningful program expansion with mindful fiscal responsibility to tax payers.
Options for training, which are in demand in the community, requested by the individuals in the care of the HSO and feasible from a logistical and fiscal standpoint (making use of Perkins Grants and Second Chance Pell Grants) include but are not limited to:
Seed starts and hoop house growing
Farming and agriculture
10 and 40 hour OSHA certification
Serve-Safe (presently being taught)
Floor Care Technician (FCT)
Personal Fitness (https://asecondufoundation.org)
Substance Abuse Counselor Certification (https://mwcc.edu/academics/certificate/substance-abuse-counseling)
Primary concerns involving acute treatment of medical/mental health/substance abuse issues need to be immediately addressed. Basic educational needs must be met and available to all. Then advanced with more varied educational offerings along with these community specific vocational/technical training offerings, which then create a means to a living wage. Jails and Houses of Correction should engage their community to interact with their facility. Local providers of healthcare, mental health counsellors and substance abuse treatment centers should be sought out. Creating partnerships with employers, job training, community-based adult educators and apprenticeships should be courted and welcomed into the facility in order to connect pre-release with individuals. Providing opportunities for connection and success prior to sentence completion and facility release helps to create that much more opportunity for success. Removing the fear of the unknown from individuals preparing for decarceration helps to ensure a more successful community re-entry. Hampshire County deserves a leader like Caitlin with innovative ideas, detailed plans and the drive to implement programs like this aimed at success while maintaining fiscal responsibility to taxpayers.