Jail Inmates Find Hope and Purpose in a Future Cleaning Career

Jail offers CMI custodial technician certification through rehabilitation program

DuPage County Jail Inmates 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.

“Hope and purpose is our jail motto,” said DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick, who established rehabilitation programs for the inmates, including vocational training in custodial services, culinary arts, and welding.

The first class of eight inmates graduated from the county jail’s six-week custodial work program last August, each earning a custodial technician certificate from ISSA’s Cleaning Management Institute (CMI). By the end of 2019, three classes totaling 24 inmates had graduated.

“These new vocational services have given hope and purpose to many of our incarcerated participants,” Mendrick said. “Learning these real-life skills to gain meaningful employment has created a calming effect within our facility.”

Cleaning for hygiene and morale

The program is open to nonviolent offenders and funded with a grant secured by the nonprofit organization JUST (Justice – Understanding – Service – Teaching) of DuPage. Mendrick said the program is 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 Special Services Deputy Ralph Kolasa conducted the custodial training after completing a course with CMI so that he could teach inmates the proper use of janitorial equipment and chemicals. The inmates have put their new 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 by-product of the janitorial training is a very clean environment where contagion is eliminated and everyone feels more healthy and comfortable within our correctional facility,” Mendrick said. In fact, the jail’s deputies report the facility, with a 968 inmate capacity, 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,” he said.

A productive and proud partnership

CMI began working with correctional facilities more than 50 years ago and it continues to provide resources for such rehabilitation programs today, said Brant Insero, director of Education, Training, Certification & Standards at ISSA. “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 said 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 said.

Program participants see it the same way. Inmate Charles Lawler said, “This experience taught us all teamwork and appreciation for others. It’s given us a new sense of integrity and a motivation for success.” With such success, the jail plans to continue the CMI custodial training program in 2020 and beyond.

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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