Jail Inmates Find Hope and Purpose in a Future Cleaning Career

Eight men earn CMI custodial technician certification through rehabilitation program

Jail inmates with cleaning equipment Image courtesy of DuPage County Jail

For DuPage County, Illinois, jail inmates, a custodial technician certificate could be the difference that puts them on a path to gainful employment and a new life of hope outside bars.

In ceremonial caps and gowns, the first class of eight inmates graduated from the DuPage County Jail’s six-week janitorial work program on Aug. 19, each earning a custodial technician certificate from the ISSA Cleaning Management Institute (CMI).

“Hope and purpose is our jail motto” says DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick, who took office in January and quickly got to work establishing rehabilitation programs for the inmates, including vocational training in custodial services, culinary arts, and welding. “If you give someone hope and purpose, you give them the drive to succeed, you give them hope they can provide for their family when they are released. Our whole goal is to give these inmates a life outside of jail. We want them to better themselves while they’re here.”

Cleaning for Hygiene and Empowerment

The program is open to nonviolent offenders and funded with a grant secured by the nonprofit organization JUST (Justice Understanding – Service – Teaching) of DuPage, which supports the needs of DuPage County Jail inmates and their families. Mendrick says the programis not only saving the facility money on cleaning contracts, but also providing a must-have service and a sense of purpose for the inmates who participate.

DuPage County Jail Deputy Ralph Kolasa, who conducted the custodial training, completed a course with CMI so that he could teach the inmates about proper use of janitorial equipment and chemicals. The inmates put their newly learned skills to use cleaning sections of the jail that otherwise would have been maintained by a professional crew, performing both daily maintenance as well as services such as stripping and waxing floors.

The jail’s deputies report the facility is cleaner than it’s ever been. “That’s better for hygiene, but also for morale, not only for the deputies, but for the inmates,” Mendrick says. He notes that the facility, which has a 968-inmate capacity, also has a full medical environment, which takes the need for thorough cleaning to another level. “There is a science to janitorial work and making sure the chemicals are mixed correctly. You have to do it right and you have to do it well,” Mendrick says.

Grant money though JUST of DuPage also supplied new cleaning equipment, which the jail will use for future custodial training. In fact, the next group of eight inmates is already on its way to becoming certified custodial technicians through CMI. Like the first group, the second will complete a week of orientation, followed by six weeks of training to receive certification.

A Productive and Proud Partnership

Brant Insero, director of Education, Training, Certification & Standards at ISSA, says CMI has been working inside correctional facilities, like DuPage County Jail, for half a century.

“ISSA’s Cleaning Management Institute couldn’t be prouder to partner with DuPage and their newest initiative of transforming lives through our Certified Custodial Technician program,” Insero says. “CMI’s legacy started in the correctional industry over 50 years ago and we continue to provide resources for rehabilitation programs. We have seen great success with our partnerships around the United States with reentry programs such as the DuPage County Jail. Companies in the cleaning industry continue to struggle with labor and what better way to find employees than leveraging organizations that are educating, certifying, and empowering individuals to enter our industry.”

Mendrick says his shared rehabilitation vision with JUST of DuPage Executive Director Michael Beary included custodial training because it is an area where inmates have real opportunity to find employment after their release. “We’re filling a void where employment is needed,” he says.

Program participants see it the same way. In a letter read at the recent graduation ceremony, inmate Charles Lawler said, “As graduates, these skills learned, the techniques taught, and the expert training we received in this highly demanded field gives us all that extra edge needed to land that career job and earn a livable wage. This experience taught us all teamwork and appreciation for others. It’s given us a new sense of integrity and a motivation for success.”

Now that the inmates have their custodial technician certification from CMI, they will begin working with JUST of DuPage and organizations such as WorkNet DuPage Career Center to find full-time jobs upon their release from jail.

CMI’s third-party training has certified more than 250,000 individuals worldwide since 1964.



Amy W. Richardson

Amy W. Richardson

Managing Editor, Cleaning & Maintenance Management

Amy W. Richardson is managing editor of Cleaning & Maintenance Management. She has more than 15 years of experience editing and writing for trade and consumer publications, community newspapers, nonprofit associations and websites. Richardson holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies with an emphasis in journalism from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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