Rebuilding futures: Young offenders graduate from Chaderjian’s new construction program
January 25, 2018
From The Record -
As Jonathan Hernandez-Sanchez walked into his graduation ceremony Thursday, he scanned the room for his mother.
He knew his mom, Yvette Sanchez, was somewhere among the dozens of businessmen, dignitaries and correctional officers gathered to watch him and his peers receive their certificates.
It’s an important day, the 20-year-old Hernandez-Sanchez said. Thursday’s graduation means he’s getting a second chance at life.
Hernandez-Sanchez and nine other offenders serving time at N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility graduated Thursday from the Pre-Apprentice Construction Labor Program, which is managed by the California Prison Industry Authority, in partnership with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Division of Juvenile Justice and California trade unions. They are the first graduating class at the Stockton facility at 7650 Newcastle Road.
After the ceremony, Hernandez-Sanchez, a slice of celebratory cake in hand, sat next to his proud mom.
“He only has me and I only have him,” said Sanchez, a single mom who two months ago moved to Sacramento from Los Angeles to be closer to Hernandez-Sanchez. “I need to make sure to be there for him for all of his important moments. I’m very proud to be able to be here with him.”
The Pre-Apprentice Construction Labor program has existed since 2006, but this is the first time it’s been implemented at N.A. Chaderjian, said Charles Pattillo, general manager of CALPIA and chief executive officer of the CALPIA board. It has the lowest recidivism rate of any trade pre-apprenticeship program run by the agency.
“Our program is specifically geared toward giving wards and soon-to-parole individuals the skills that they can use to get into commercial construction labor anywhere in the state of California,” Pattillo said.
During the six-month program, the offenders learn everything from Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines to welding, carpentry, ironwork and how to flag. The rigorous program also had the men digging holes, driving forklifts and laying cement.
“I tried to kill them,” vocational instructor Roy Borgersen said of the immense workload.
Borgersen said he even had the young men toiling away in the rain. The offenders at the time talked back to him and they would get upset, but he said it was important for him to teach them to work hard because the unions don’t want lazy employees.
Borgersen, who himself spent time in correctional facilities and dealt with substance abuse until he turned 21, said Chaderjian is a second-chance program if the young men take advantage of it.
The program costs about $160,000 a year to run, and DJJ makes an additional $1,500 investment once an offender is released, Pattillo said. In comparison, it costs between $100,000 and $200,000 per juvenile offender to keep them incarcerated.
Upon their release, the offenders who complete the program are able to sign up at a union hall in California and have the DJJ cover their union fees for a year, Pattillo said. They will also receive a large set of tools to get them started on the job. Pattillo said California labor unions, some of which were present Thursday, have been extremely supportive of the program and hire the offenders as long as they complete the required work.
Luis Huerta, 18, and Tevaris Stafford, 20, said they were both excited to complete the rigorous program.
It started as just a job to have while in here, said Stafford, but now he thinks about a future in the concrete demolition business. He said he was especially grateful for Borgersen’s guidance and the union members who offered him advice.
Huerta, who’s been incarcerated most of his life, said the program made an immediate impact.
“I was looking forward to going to the penitentiary,” he said matter-of-factly.
Huerta had actually requested he be sent there, but instead, the N.A. Chaderjian staff encouraged him to give the pre-apprentice program a try. Life was going to be about getting out of prison, selling drugs to make fast money and possibly end up back in prison or dead, he said.
“Now that I think about it, I have something positive to look forward to,” he said. “If I stay positive, positive things will come my way so why go negative?
“I’m going to try my best to be successful.”
San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti, who attended Thursday’s event, congratulated Stafford and Huerta on completing the program.
He shook their hands and told them, “Hard work and good choices will go a long way … the future is yours, work hard.”
Programs of this type are essential for these young men, especially for those who take advantage of them, Sanchez said. While she tried to teach her son good from bad, he made a mistake and ended up incarcerated, but as a mother, she said she’s glad people gave her son this opportunity.
“The public needs to understand that everyone, whether juvenile or adult, just about everybody is going to get out of prison eventually and it’s incumbent upon us to make sure these folks don’t come back to prison in any way shape or form,” Pattillo said. “Investing in programs like this is probably the surest way to guarantee they don’t return.”
Contact reporter Almendra Carpizo at (209) 546-8264 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AlmendraCarpizo.