CALPIA’s Pattillo explains the options of prison job training

By Juan Haines

The jobs inmates do in California’s prisons are diverse, and they demand skills that can be used in the outside workforce, according to Charles Pattillo, General Manager of the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA).

Over the years, CALPIA has expanded from making license plates to producing a wide variety of different products including furniture, baked goods and agriculture. Now the agency is providing training in  a number of highly skilled trades, such as computer coding, Computer-Aided Design, commercial diving and iron working.

Pattillo said that inmates working in the Healthcare Facilities Maintenance (HFM) program and similar inmate jobs could be eligible to continue working for the state, once released from prison. The only place Pattillo said ex-inmates could not work is in the Capitol building and where there are highly sensitive computers.

Pattillo has expanded HFM jobs (hospital janitorial work) from 900 positions to 1,200 positions. In an interview, Pattillo was asked why he has increased janitorial jobs in the state’s prisons. “Not everyone can be a computer coder,” he said.

Pattillo is currently working to make the workplace more accessible for workers who need substance abuse programs as well as educational services. 

Pattillo said having those services on-site eliminates an inmate having to choose between working or going to a self-help program. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Innovative ideas got Pattillo national recognition late last year when the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA) selected him for the 2017 Rodli Award.

The Rodli Award was first given in 1978, and Pattillo is the first director from California to receive it.

Pattillo, who’s been on the job for 10 years, is the longest serving director in CALPIA history.

“Chuck has not only been a leader in the Correctional Industry field through his work at CALPIA, but he is also eager to share his expertise and resources to help other Correctional Industries across the country launch new programs and/or problem-solve challenges,” said NCIA Executive Director Gina Honeycutt in a CALPIA press release. “Chuck has volunteered countless hours of his own time to support NCIA in its mission to support the professional development of our members and we are thrilled to recognize, him with this highest honor.”

California’s top corrections official Scott Kernan said, “Mr. Pattillo is tasked with one of the hardest jobs in California government: rehabilitating offenders in prison by developing and implementing results-based employment training in the framework of a profitable, self-sufficient and diversified business model. Mr. Pattillo has demonstrated great discernment, business judgment and sound government principles in ensuring CALPIA’s success despite an often challenging environment that includes times of decreasing resources, correctional reorganization, public safety realignment and the extreme uncertainty of politics. He is a great proponent and practitioner of collaboration at all levels, finding ways to accomplish goals even in the toughest of times.”

Pattillo cited many different numbers and statistics that support what CALPIA has accomplished over the past years, but the statistic he said he’s most proud of is the low recidivism rate of CALPIA employees. CALPIA employees return to prison on average 26 to 38 percent less often than offenders released from the general population, and CALPIA’s Career Technical Education programs have a cumulative recidivism rate of 7.13 percent.

Pattillo, proud of the work his team does, says that inmates employed by CALPIA is the best savings for Californians in tax dollars and public safety.

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