STOCKTON — Ten youth offenders graduated with a marketable job skill after completing the first Pre-Apprentice Construction Labor Program at the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility.
After completing six months of preparation, the young men were certified for construction work and possible union membership, according to the Stockton Record.
The youth-offenders were trained in welding, carpentry and ironwork. They were taught how to drive forklifts, dig holes, form and pour cement.
Program graduates are eligible to sign up at a union hall in California once they parole. They can also apply to have their union dues paid for a year by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).
“I was looking forward to going to the penitentiary,” said Luis Huerta, 18, a program graduate.
Huerta told the Stockton Record that he saw life as getting out of prison, selling drugs and possibly ending up back in prison or dead. He requested that he be sent to the penitentiary, but instead the program staff encouraged him to give the pre-apprenticeship a try.
“Now that I think about it, I have something positive to look forward to,” Huerta said. “If I stay positive, positive things will come my way so why go negative? I’m going to try my best to be successful.”
Charles Pattillo, general manager of California Prison Industry Authority, partnered with the facility and California trade unions to bring the program to the Stockton facility.
“The public needs to understand that everyone, whether juvenile or adult, just about everybody is going to get out of prison eventually, and it’s incumbent upon us to make sure these folks don’t come back to prison in any way shape or form,” Pattillo said. “Investing in programs like this is probably the surest way to guarantee they don’t return.”
The program costs about $160,000 a year to operate and DJJ makes an additional $1,500 investment once an offender is released, Pattillo said. In comparison, it costs between $100,000 and $200,000 per juvenile offender to keep them incarcerated, reported the Stockton Record.
The program is rigorous. Roy Borgersen, an ex-offender who now instructs inmates, has the men toil in the rain. “I tried to kill them,” he said.
The young students would get upset and talk back to him but they never quit. The unions don’t want lazy employees, Borgersen told the Stockton Record, so it is especially important for him to teach them to work hard.
Graduate Jonathan Hernandez-Sanchez, 20, who sees a future in the concrete demolition business, said he made his mother proud as he received his certificate.
“He only has me, and I only have him,” said his mother, Yvette Sanchez, who moved to Sacramento from Los Angeles to be closer to her son. “I need to make sure to be there for him for all his important moments. I’m very proud to be able to be here with him.”