by Jill Spear
When Raul Lopez was incarcerated, he realized he wanted more from life. With three sons to come home to, he made it his mission to further his education and become a truck driver. He has now achieved both goals.
Lopez earned his high school diploma and received assistance from Sonoma County Job Link, which put him in touch with the Sonoma County Workforce Investment Board. Through a grant from the Prison to Employment program, Lopez received funding to cover the price for earning his commercial driver’s license, which costs about $4,500. In Fall 2020, he obtained his license.
He knew he wanted to drive a concrete mixer, and Sonoma County Job Link provided the leads. For more than a year now, he’s held the same job and has made his family proud. “I like my job. I’m getting paid good money,” Lopez says. “I’m also getting full benefits, which means my family will get full benefits, too.”
George Garcia, an employment and training program coordinator for Sonoma County Job Link, worked closely with Lopez to help him achieve his goals, a service he provides for all his clients. “We help people with job readiness, filling out applications, preparing resumes and overcoming barriers to employment,” Garcia says.
“We also help with supportive services,” he adds. “For example, if someone is looking for a job and needs things like work boots or clothes, we can help, especially if they’re enrolled in Prison to Employment. In fact, we can help with anything that will further their success in getting and keeping a job, from union dues to child care and rent.
“When we provide intensive services, which we did with Raul, we provide follow up four times a year for an entire year. I’d call Raul up to make sure things were going well.”
Garcia, who has worked with justice-involved individuals for six years, remarks on the tremendous importance of getting and keeping jobs. “The more successful people are with employment, the less likely they are to go back to jail.”
In short, jobs reduce recidivism, a key benefit for everyone in the community.
In addition to truck driving, Garcia helps people find jobs in a number of careers, including construction, working in bakeries, manufacturing and the poultry industry. In California, employers also get advantages, like a tax break for hiring the formerly incarcerated.
Garcia notes that he’s still in touch with people he worked with five years ago, who continue to be productive, working members of the community.
To learn more, visit https://sonomawib.org/