The opportunity for employment is only available to sentenced incarcerated persons. The job selections range from custodial type jobs, to painting, and kitchen work. In each housing unit, there are two laundry worker positions and a unit cleaner position. Generally, there is also a living unit cleaner who handles the exterior hallways between units. Maintainence positions cover mowing the grass, sweeping and/or shoveling walkways and maintainence and repair of the appliances in each unit – microwaves, washers/dryers. They also handle the loading dock responsibilities. Due to security issues, all of these positions are so heavily supervised, everything takes twice as long… and due to the lack of proper wages and unskilled laborers, everything is done less than half as well. Officers are overworked and taxed with with not only being a correctional officer, but also a personnel manager and supervisor.

Other positions are voluntary. Possibly the most accessed “service” available to incarcerated persons – and one of the most important – is the library. Underfunded, overcrowded, cramped for space and dramatically understaffed, there are books with torn covers and missing pages, utter lack of reference manuals and not even a space to read and study. Sometimes the Law Library is staffed with competent personnel, but proper education and training are requisite – and this is the single most important resource to incarcerated persons.

All of these things add up to a system where nothing is done to any type of quality, and nobody is paid enough to take any pride in their work. When they return to the community, they have no finances, haven’t been taught a single life skill, and not a single resource has been allocated to repair the broken person who was originally incarcerated. What about animal husbandry? Chickens, cows, sheep – you could grow vegetables, and enough to give back to community food shelves and homeless shelters. Incarcerated individuals could learn skills, take pride in their work and themselves, and take pride in the effect their work has on the community. There could be people hired through the Volunteer Coordinator who could foster the growth of each incarcerated person. Rachel Feldman, spokesperson for the State Department of Corrections, omitted so much truth from her statement* – that she made it sound as though people are competing for these amazing jobs. They are not. It’s a slap in the face for anyone who doesn’t know the actual facts. Only one kitchen worker makes more than $1.10/day. He’s the “Chef.”

Read Ms. Feldman’s comment here.

— Juan J.

the writer is a formerly incarcerated Vermonter.

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