Women inmates getting help in the job market

NIANTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — In the library at the York Correctional Institution inmates are invited to come in to try to expand their minds and just down the hall is the job center meant to help them expand their chances of success outside the prison walls.

“How’s everything?” asks Governor Dannel P. Malloy, D-Connecticut, who met with inmates.

This is the governor’s 20th visit inside a state prison. Today he is meeting with women who are taking part in a job development program funded by a LEAP Grant at the state’s only women’s prison.

“The reality is is that 90 to 95 percent of those entering prison will be released from custody at some point,” the governor told a group of prison and local officials, along with representatives from the American Job Center and Department of Labor, gathered in the prison’s library.

Once only available to male inmates the American Jobs Center is now helping women prisoners prepare for their release.

“The program gives us the support and confidence a lot of us lack,” inmate Shemeka Whitlock told the group. She is among the first 25 inmates to enroll. Sixty more are on a waiting list.

“I’m also looking to gain confidence when asked the question ‘have you ever been convicted of a felony?’,” said Phathesia Robinson who also spoke to the group.

“Well today I would admit that yes I did do a crime but that doesn’t make me who I am today,” said Whitlock. “I’ve utilized the time while I was in prison to turn those negative things I have done into positives.”

The inmates receive certifications in retail, customer service, serve safe, and OSHA compliance. Whitlock hopes to enroll in Housatonic Community College and eventually work in Human Services.

“I know how hard it is,” said Whitlock. “I know it’s gonna be a struggle. It’s not going to be easy. But we can do anything we set our minds to there’s no such thing as can’t.”

“In addition to the skills, connections, and a resume these women also walk out of York with a new outfit from Dress for Success. Counselors with the job center say the first impression in an interview means a lot.

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