California expands funding for prison tattoo removal program

Pre-release tattoo removal program

San Quentin State Prison will be one of the California facilities where the pre-release tattoo removal program will take place. (Photo: prisoncount.org)

California is spending $6.4 million to expand its pre-release tattoo removal program from two locations to 21 prisons and facilities across the state. The effort will take place over the next four years.

The program began in 2018 at the Folsom Women’s Facility and the Custody to Community Transitional Reentry Program in Sacramento under a contract with the California Prison Industry Authority. The large demand for tattoo removal led to the dramatic increase in funding and programs, which will now be under the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

“Highly visible tattoos unfortunately present a significant obstacle to employment, and their removal can also signify a new chapter in someone’s life. We treated about 140 women at CCTRP and FWF with more requesting services beyond what the current contract is able to provide. Hence, the expansion,” says Krissi Khokhobashvili, chief, Office of External Affairs, CDCR.

Program will take place at 21 prisons and facilities

The new sites were chosen based on location – to make sure services are spread throughout the state and be available to all genders and security levels.

The locations where tattoo removal procedures will soon take place: Avenal State Prison, Central California Women’s Facility (Chowchilla), California Health Care Facility (Stockton), California Men’s Colony (San Luis Obispo), California State Prison-Corcoran, Deuel Vocational Institution (Tracy), Folsom State Prison (men’s), Kern Valley State Prison (Delano), Mule Creek State Prison (Ione), North Kern State Prison (Delano), Pleasant Valley State Prison (Coalinga), California State Prison-Sacramento, Substance Abuse Treatment Facility (Corcoran), Sierra Conservation Center (Jamestown), California State Prison-Solano, San Quentin State Prison, Salinas Valley State Prison (Soledad), Valley State Prison (Chowchilla) and Wasco State Prison.

The CDCR has proposed that those eligible for the procedure have highly visible tattoos. They must also be nearing release to the community or have completed gang debriefing (a formal, multi-step gang disassociation process). Based on the number of members of these two groups, the CDCR estimates that as many as 3032 people could receive treatment each fiscal year.

While tattoo removal at the two existing programs is done by a mobile tattoo removal unit, the CDCR has not yet determined how the procedures will be carried out in the additional facilities. A decision will be made once the vendors are selected.

Tattoo removal services to begin January 2020

The competitive bidding process begins this month. The procedure is an invitation for bid rather than a request for proposal. In an RFP, which is usually for new services and programs, bidders propose how they will deliver their services and the price they will charge. An IFB, on the other hand, gives information on the tattoo removal services and how they will be delivered. It then asks bidders to submit what it would cost them to provide those services.

Those who are interested can find out more information and submit a bid through the CaleProcure website. They can also contact  the CDCR’s External Affairs Chief Khokhobashvili, at Kristina.Khokhobashvili@cdcr.ca.gov or 916-324-6508. The actual tattoo removal services will begin in January 2020.

CDCR will evaluate the program during year three of the four-year contract to determine its effectiveness. At that point, the department may request additional funding to continue the program and expand tattoo removal services to California’s remaining adult institutions.

Individuals who start their tattoo removal process on the inside but still require additional treatments for completion once released may be able to find a free or low-cost tattoo removal program by checking out Jails to Jobs’ national directory of these programs.

Jails to Jobs is happy to offer a complimentary copy of our how-to guide for establishing such a program to any organization that plans to create a free or low-cost community-based tattoo removal program. Those interested can contact us to request a copy.

 

Driving a garbage truck can provide good pay, benefits and steady work for ex-offenders

driving a garbage truck

Kamarlo Spooner is putting together a nonprofit to help people coming out of prison become garbage truck drivers.

When considering work after prison, driving a garbage truck might not be the first job that comes to mind. But maybe you should consider it. This type of work can provide excellent pay and an opportunity for union membership with all of its benefits. And in many cases it might mean a schedule that allows time for other interests and commitments.

Just ask Kamarlo Spooner, who worked his way into a garbage truck driving job after being incarcerated and hopes to help others like him get a similar opportunity.

Spooner actually started seriously preparing for employment during his three years of imprisonment for drug sales and firearms convictions.

“In the prison, they had different programs. I got really good in carpentry, welding and auto mechanics. I wanted to prepare for a job,” he says.

Spooner found truck driving more suitable job than carpentry

Spooner used the carpentry skills he developed while incarcerated to land an apprenticeship position with a builder. But he was only making $12 per hour and needed more money to support his family. So he picked up the handbook for commercial truck driving, studied it during his lunch periods and managed to pass the test for a Class A permit.

Without a license yet, Spooner couldn’t get the type of job he wanted. “I finally found a company that would give me a job. They allowed me to drive Class B trucks, and I had a certain amount of time to get my Class A license. I would have to join the Teamsters Union. They let me practice on the company truck when I wasn’t working. Every Saturday and Sunday morning I went in at 2 a.m. and practiced driving the commercial vehicles. I taught myself on the weekends and on weekdays went to work on 10 hour shifts,” Spooner says.

His pay went from $12 per hour as a carpenter to $22 per hour with benefits at the truck driving job, He worked there for three years and at another truck driving company for another three years, before applying for a job with Waste Management in a San Francisco suburb, where six years later he’s still employed.

A typical day for Spooner? He reports to work at 5:15 a.m., sits in on a brief safety meeting, then does a pre-trip walk around the truck to make sure everything is OK. Then it’s off on his route to collect recyclables, using a joystick to operate the arm that picks up the garbage containers on the curbside and dumps their contents in the truck.

Spooner makes more than $100,000 per year. Although he likes his job, that’s not what he ultimately wants to do.

Wants to help others have opportunities driving a garbage truck

“What I really want to do is to get paid to get out and encourage other folks – basically, what I do now for free,” he says.

During the time he was incarcerated, Spooner decided that when he was released he would go back and help inmates prepare to get on their feet when they get out. But the prisons he talked to weren’t interested. Finally, the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, Calif., where he was incarcerated for almost two years, allowed him to come in and talk to the inmates.

That was the beginning. Spooner has continued his education. He now has five associate degrees and speaks to formerly incarcerated individuals as part of Peralta Community College District’s New Degree program to encourage them to go to community college.

Plans to create nonprofit to train garbage truck drivers

Beyond that, Spooner is in the process of putting together a nonprofit that will help previously incarcerated people get their commercial  driver’s license (CDL), train them to operate a trash truck and create a pipeline of qualified drivers to offer trash companies.

And how exactly does he plan to do this? His idea is to recruit formerly incarcerated individuals who are living in the many homeless camps in Oakland and other parts of Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He will help them get their commercial license and GED, train them to drive a garbage truck and pay them while they’re doing it. The garbage truck will pick up trash from the various homeless encampments. Spooner also plans to work with the city of Oakland and Alameda County to have his trainees clean up areas where protests have taken place.

“After a couple of years, they’ll be trained on how to operate a commercial truck, have a GED and get a commercial truck driver’s license,” Spooner says. “If these individuals do well at my organization, I’ll have a pipeline so after two years they can get a job at another company.”

While his nonprofit is still in the planning stages, Spooner has already been approved for tax-exempt status as a nonprofit by the state of California and is in the process of filling out the federal forms to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Kamarlo Spooner Foundation.