“We didn’t have my position. Re-entry was not even mentioned back in 1995 when I first started, so that’s a big deal,” Shelly Staton is the re-entry coordinator at Chillicothe Correctional Center.
Staton has been with the Department of Corrections for 25 years and says she often sees familiar faces coming back.
“Occasionally, unfortunately, I do. It kind of disappoints me but what can I do? You feel like you have been a failure at your job but it’s up to them to do the work.”
She says three things are key to keep people from coming back – housing, treatment, and employment.
The DOC believes vocational training – and the paid jobs in the institutions – are the solution, at least for the employment part of it. With the training and certificates received while serving time, the goal is people will be released with skills they can use immediately. Eligibility for some programs is based on a person’s release date – so the certificates they earn don’t expire before they leave.
“It’s not only an experience cooking, but it’s also interacting with people and helping people and that’s a skill as well,” said Cynthia Chaluisant, who’s serving three years at Chillicothe.
She says the information about the program was readily available and she was told about them when she first arrived. But Sharon Grant, supervisor of vocational training, says there are still inmates who don’t take advantage of the courses or jobs.
“We have a lot of these ladies that choose to do as little as humanly possible while they’re here. I don’t know why, but that’s the lesser of the evils,’ she said. “But once they are in there they like it because it’s so different, it takes them out of prison because it is so different. And they are there all day. It is a full-time job.”
“It looks good on a resume learning new skills in here while they are doing their time,” Staton said. “We do try to help them put that into words so when they do work on a resume they can put down.”
Offenders have to seek Staton and the re-entry services themselves.
“It’s open to anybody, she said. “I can assist them but I’m not gotta hand it out to them, so they need to come in.”
But she says the real work begins once they are released.
“If they don’t focus on themselves as soon as they get out of here they will come back to prison,” Staton said.
Tomorrow night – we’ll hear the story of one woman who has been out of prison for a year and is employed in Ozark. Her employer goes to Missouri prisons to interview offenders before their release.