Commander Matthew Peterson of the Iowa Veterans Home (IVH) has tried every traditional method of advertising — mass media, job fairs, word of mouth and referral programs — to tackle the labor shortage works in the food service at the Marshalltown facility, but as the situation persisted, he and his management team decided to get creative.
In an effort to alleviate the problem (according to a recent tally, IVH is short of nine full-time and five part-time restaurant workers) and avoid forcing more shifts on current employees, one of the members of her team suggested a partnership with the Mitchellville Women’s Correctional Facility, located about 45 miles south of Marshalltown, where she had previously worked.
“It just becomes an ugly spiral that we have to anticipate, and all the effort we put in has helped to some extent, but it hasn’t been enough,” Peterson said.
At this time, the proposal would be open to women only and would involve transporting four female inmates who have been screened and found to be of the lowest security risk from Mitchellville Institution to IVH at 6:30 a.m., where they would work until 7:15 p.m. According to the plan, two groups of four alternated days and worked every day of the week except Tuesday.
Nick Crawford, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC), said the idea could be mutually beneficial for both entities.
“Although pre-decisional, this proposal could be a fiscally responsible option with significant rehabilitation benefits for everyone involved. It is common for the DOC to partner with community employers on opportunities like this. , and IVH is exploring ways to meet critical needs such as catering staffing,” he wrote in an email. “A big part of DOC’s mission is to find ways that are safe and innovative ways to reintegrate inmates into the community after their sentence and help address the workforce challenges that communities face.The IVH environment provides a dignified, positive and service-oriented atmosphere for reintegration. »
Peterson acknowledged potential skepticism about such an arrangement, but hoped he could resolve any issues well before the program’s launch date, which has yet to be determined.
“We are mindful that the object could be of great concern to the community, our employees and our residents, and all of these are – probably in reverse order – my highest priorities. I would never do anything, and neither would anyone in the Department of Corrections, that would knowingly endanger anyone’s safety,” Peterson said. “Safety will be a constant and paramount concern throughout this program. (Inmates) will never be unsupervised.
He also referred to the incident at Anamosa prison last year – when two inmates killed a correctional officer and a registered nurse as they tried to escape – and said the situation was among the reasons why IVH only worked with the women’s facility.
Beyond those concerns, however, Peterson is a firm believer in second chances and giving inmates valuable work experience that could even prepare them for a career once their time incarcerated is over.
“They’re super excited just for a change of scenery and the opportunity that awaits them after release because it’s an ongoing challenge for inmates to reintegrate and become a contributing member of society,” Peterson said. “My view is that people will never behave like contributing members of society if you don’t give them an avenue that allows them to do so.”
If inmates are doing well on the job without any issues and their terms are over, Peterson added, he would be more than willing to consider them for full-time employment.
“I’m excited to do this because I think it will prove that people sometimes make mistakes, and sometimes all we need is a second chance to prove that something they did isn’t necessarily who they are. they are,” he said.
As the proposal moves forward as a joint venture between IVH and DOC, Peterson said it’s still conceptual and will need to receive final approval from the governor’s office, but he’s confident something will be worked out in the near future. coming. Crawford is also optimistic about the prospect of reaching an agreement.
“When these types of programs are offered, the DOC has an internal process where we assess the plausibility of this type of arrangement. The number one element of this assessment is to implement measures that ensure the safety and security of the IVH residents, employees and the general public,” Crawford wrote. “To be clear, this proposal is preliminary, but it is a fiscally responsible option that could provide rehabilitation benefits to all involved. eager to explore this option, but no decision will be made until a thorough assessment and appropriate supervision has been ensured.
Contact Robert Maharry
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