December 22, 2011
Thursday, 7:00 p.m.
Letter #205: I’ve Landed a Job!
Christmas Greetings! I went in for a job interview this week. I know, at a time when everyone else is having their company Christmas party, going out of town to be with the grandparents, or busily shopping for last-minute gifts, I was applying for work. As part of the assignments for the “Pre-Release” class I volunteered for (everyone else in the class has under two years to their sentence), I had to do a mock job interview. I’d actually only applied for three jobs in my career, and I was offered each job, so the extent of my interview experience is limited. In fact, I’ve interviewed others far more times—20 or so—but I looked forward to the challenge.
I freshened up my résumé and drafted a cover letter, and they were typed up for me. Rather than create a fictitious company and job offer for my interview as everyone else in the class did (Warehouse Manager, XYZ Corporation, e.g.), I opted to use this opportunity to apply for a position I’d like to create here at the institution: Exit Strategies Specialist. (From the sound of the job title, it seems as if I’m an expert in escape attempts, rather than a Life Coach for soon-to-be parolees. There are similarities.)
The other guys in the class had interviews with staff members who played the part of a future employer. Captains, Chief of Security, and even a couple assistant wardens got involved, hosting one-on-one interviews with each of us for up to an hour per inmate—remarkable, considering how valuable these people’s time is and that this class is an initiative of the prison and not required, recommended, or paid for by the California’s Department of Corrections.
My interviewer was my unit manager, Ms. Powell. I chose to act as if we’d never met, though I am on great terms with her. I made sure I was on time, arriving early (thanks to no traffic and green lights).
Ms. Powell is tough. Only a few years older than me, she’s definitely spent more years in prison than me—more than twenty—so she’s seen her share of the good, bad, and ugly. Besides corrections, she worked a few years doing background checks for the sheriff’s office, and that background of hers really showed. I wasn’t nervous, because I do well improvising, but I just prayed I would do well, so that possibly my responsibilities would increase, to benefit more guys here.
Ms. Powell ushered me past piles of goodies left over from her staff holiday party and into her office. The hot dogs looked great, but she wasn’t done grilling by any means. She “interviewed” me for half an hour then gave me feedback for another fifteen. She told me that she rarely meets inmates like me. One guy worked for her several years ago who led rehabilitative-type programs as an inmate in a federal prison. She values integrity above all else and said some very kind things. I asked her what the likelihood was of me actually getting the job, and she said that I will continue to be involved with all rehabilitative programs in the unit, and she would have me run far more, except that the cognitive behavior class will be in our unit’s multi-purpose room for a while, making daytime programs difficult to schedule. She put me permanently on the schedule for teaching Exit Strategies three mornings a week and wants me to co-lead an Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcoholics Anonymous group in the unit beginning soon. In the days ahead, Ms. Powell wants me to initiate rehabilitative programs here that could fit into the busy schedule. Any ideas would be appreciated!
I thank the Lord that my website is functional again. My good friend, Dave, spearheaded it and did a great job. In the future, my goal is to develop it to include “back-issues” of this letter and to reach out to more people. Knowing that finding a stamp and paper is difficult, it’s now easy to jot me a note that gets forwarded to me, by going to my website. Also, if you know someone who has a compassionate heart and prays, they can be added to the mailing list via the website. www.changedinside.org
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!