Daniel Machain knows of the ex-felons who “play the system” when given a chance to regain their economic footing and of the other offenders who honestly want to make a fresh start.
Machain on Friday spoke of one such person who faced many hardships that led him to smuggle drugs for money before getting caught and doing time in prison.
“He’s one of my instructors,” Machain said.
Machain was one of a number of employers who showed up at the federal courthouse on Adams Avenue in El Centro, where U.S. Probation Department representatives spoke of giving low-risk and non-violent federal offenders a second chance through a subsidized on-the-job training program.
As part of the Second Chance Act of 2008, contracts may be awarded to employers to provide services to such federal offenders who would be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office. This is the first time that the program has come to the Imperial Valley, said Mary Murphy, supervisory U.S. probation officer of the Chula Vista office.
The program would subsidize up to 50 percent of an employee’s salary for up to 90 days under a number of conditions. One of those conditions includes that a work week consist of 30 to 40 hours and that once an employee is hired he will continue working with the company, according to officials.
Offenders considered low-risk are those convicted of such crimes like trying to smuggle undocumented immigrants or drugs, Eli Goren, assistant deputy chief of the U.S. Probation Department said. Offenders eligible for the federal program must be U.S.-born, Murphy said.
“This was an incentive to help the re-entry efforts for those who are leaving prison,” Murphy said of the supervision and subsidized pay for prospective employees. “We believe that everyone makes mistakes and that they learn from them.”
While the program’s aim is geared toward having low-risk offenders find work, Murphy and Goren said another goal is to reduce recidivism.
Murphy explained that less than half of the 500 ex-offenders under the federal probation department’s supervision in the Imperial Valley are unemployed.
Making job placement happen in an economically challenged area like Imperial County could be done through establishing partnerships with organizations that offer apprenticeship programs, Goren said.
Anyone wanting more information about the U.S. Probation Department’s program can call 760-352-2138 or go online in mid-May at jobs.casp.uscourts.gov.
“This event today was a community outreach effort with the hopes of networking with employers and other agencies,” Murphy said.
Staff Writer Silvio J. Panta can be reached at 760-337-3442 or at firstname.lastname@example.org