CHAPARRAL, New Mexico (KTSM) – Dozens of women inmates gathered inside a gymnasium decorated in purple for an inaugural workforce training program at the Otero County Prison Facility.
Over 60 detained women attended the Thursday morning event eager to learn about reentering the workforce after their sentences are complete and they are free. All received pamphlets and brochures from Workforce Solutions agencies in New Mexico and Texas.
“Each person’s desire and vision is different,” Leila Melendez, CEO of Workforce Solutions Borderplex said. “And, we will help connect them with what their desire is. It’s not one cookie-cutter approach for anybody.”
A jail spokeswoman said the workshop is the first of its kind provided to the inmates. It coincides with the institution’s vision to provide rehabilitation services to inmates so they are successful once released and so they may not return to the criminal justice system.
The two-hour long workshop provided inmates with techniques in dealing with stress, information on services available to them and words of encouragement from someone who knew what it was like to be in their situation.
Leticia Chavez-Paulette, the co-founder of the Peaceful Habitation Organization, detailed her four-year stay in jail when a guard encouraged her to change her life.
She reflected on the moment the state took custody of her child. While in handcuffs, Chavez watched her son beg her to hold him.
“I was in a down spiral,” she said. “I lost a lot.”
But she said the experience taught her how to grow and change her life. When she left jail, she remarried and was given custody of her child again and became an advocate for others in the criminal justice system. Her experience and training opened up opportunities, she added.
“Now, our life experience can get us a job,” she said.