(sound food bank)
The inmates taking part in the job training program are easy to spot. They are wearing white jump suits which stand out in what is otherwise a mostly brown and grey warehouse. Blending in to that background is a couple of guards from the Texas prison system who are overseeing the couple dozen inmates that come over on a daily basis. They are learning what is involved in the day to day operations of a warehouse.
“They are actually OSHA certified in six different pieces of equipment they get their hazmat training, all the way to job skills.”
Brian Greene is president of the Houston Food Bank.
“About 90 percent of our orders are pulled by the inmates from TDCJ. And a very large proportion of our food sorting is done by the inmates.”
The Houston Food Bank benefits and the inmates are learning skills that can help them get a job after incarceration. Corey Conway recently graduated from one part of the program and is looking to transition to employment. Even in good times, it’s difficult to find jobs and the current economic situation is on his mind.
“I got concerns about it but you know, basically it’s up to the good Lord whether you have a job or not. But I’m just blessed the program gives me an opportunity to prove myself that I’m a better person and belong in society instead of incarcerated.”
The programs history gives him reason for hope. Again, Greene, with the Houston Food Bank.
“I think they’ve studied 129 of our graduates over the past years and of that group they’ve only been able to identify six who actually went back in. When you consider the normal recidivism rate for Texas Department of Criminal Justice is about 40 percent, this is a rate that is far, far better.”
Greene says they are looking to expand the programs and partnerships.
“It’s been successful for The Food Bank in that it reduces our costs, it’s been successful for the inmates in that it gives them a better future, I think it’s been successful for the community in that reduction in recidivism has an impact on the quality of life and cost to the state.”
Capella Tucker, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
This story first aired on March 2, 2009.