Second chances for inmates are hard to come by, but for a few at the DuPage County Jail, getting one will be easier thanks to their Janitorial Work Program.
The six-week course, completely funded by a grant, gives eight low-risk inmates around 140 hours of learning – with about 20 in the classroom and the rest from hands-on training.
The program is aimed to help inmates’ transition from jail-life to work-life.
“That’s why they call us a correctional facility. We’re here to correct people, not just mushroom them, warehouse them, or feed them,” said DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick. “Our mantra is ‘hope and purpose.’ That’s part of our vocational plan because that’s what you need. You need to have some hope and purpose to succeed outside jail life.”
Inmates use the Kaivac Cleaning System. High pressure water brings up the soil from the cell and then they use a vacuum-like device cleaning and sanitizing the cell in less than three minutes. It’s all free so inmates don’t have to go on their hands and knees.
What Are Inmates Saying About It?
Recent graduates of the program say it helps with their sense of accomplishment and seeing themselves in a different light.
“Unfortunately I’m in jail, but I still achieved a certificate and it helps with my overall personality,” said Ardino Medina.
“It gave us a chance to look at our lives as productive members of society and not only the criminals that we are looked upon as,” added Charles Lawler.
Current program participants say the previous graduating class motivates them to complete the course and better their lives.
“I’ve been struggling with addiction my whole life – 10 years ago when I came to this county jail they didn’t offer opportunities like this,” said Mike Astorino. “Last year they didn’t offer this stuff. Seeing people like that, doing it, it’s kind of like ‘maybe this can benefit me and maybe it’s another this can help me stay away from drugs and alcohol.’”
After Inmates Complete The Program
Program graduates receive a certificate from the Cleaning Management Institute and workNet DuPage Career Center, which will help them find a job. The center check in with inmates for a year if they land a career, so they hopefully never go through jail doors again.
Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.