“This is first time that they are basically giving money out to the entire state workforce system to work with that population,” said Don Nakamoto, labor market analyst for the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board.
The money accompanies the decision to release prisoners early due to widening state budget cuts and to address overcrowded prisons. That parolees are more likely to re-offend if they can’t obtain employment prompted state officials to fund the job assistance program.
The amount of funding given to the workforce investment boards was based on the number of parolees expected to be released into the local areas, according to a city report.
The Verdugo Jobs Center plans to provide employment services, case management, job placement assistance and career counseling to 100 early-release parolees, according to the report. Twelve of those will get vocational training.
The center has already offered training in heating, air conditioning and mechanics to some parolees, Nakamoto said.
“That’s some of the initial work that we have started,” he said. “It’s barely getting off the ground at this point . . . We have already started working with some of the population because the state is really anxious to get this thing going.”
The center has so far advised 20 to 25 parolees, some of whom were referred by county parole officers, Nakamoto said.
Still, securing jobs for the early-release parolees, especially given some of their offenses, will be challenging, Nakamoto said.
Some also lack the needed vocational skills that would make them competitive in the job market, he said.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” Nakamoto said. “They are going to be competing against a lot of people that are unemployed. But I think the one positive thing is that they will be connected into the workforce assistance system.”
The strategy is a turnaround from years past, when inmates were released without dedicated job assistance, he added.
“Basically, they have been on their own,” Nakamoto said.
Job training will be critical for recently released parolees to combat the high rate of recidivism, Councilwoman Laura Friedman said.
“I think it’s essential,” she said. “We need to really give people a chance. We need to give them training and get them into the workforce, so they don’t have to resort to crime.”