Bexar County jail and Alamo Colleges provide inmates with 40 credits of customer service training.
By Te Keyshia Johnson
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and Alamo Colleges are partnering to give inmates a second chance at success.
The sheriff’s office and district volunteers will provide a community service-training program where inmates learn the importance of customer service in the workplace.
“Employment is very important for our individuals who have been incarcerated,” jail programs manager Aida Negron said. “Sustaining and maintaining a job to provide for their families simplifies a way to be a part of their community; basically to sustain life for providing for themselves and their families.”
The one-year program began its first class Feb. 23, for male and female inmates who have one more year left before release. Male and female classes are separate.
Raquel Perez, Alamo Colleges’ corporate liaison, said the program is the brainchild of Chancellor Bruce Leslie and Sheriff Susan Pamerleau.
“(They) had a conversation that they wanted to partner and work together to be able to benefit the inmates,” Perez said. “That’s how it started, with the sheriff and the chancellor.”
Inmates who participate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday throughout the year will receive a 40-credit-hour certificate, Perez said.
Alamo Community College District provides three instructors who voluntarily teach the inmates about customer service ethics.
“Critical elements of customer service, business writing networks, getting along in the workplace and dealing with different business etiquette,” Perez said.
The inmates are adapting well to the program, Negron said.
“We had excellent reviews,” she said. “We had them fill out evaluation forms, and almost all of them said that they are very happy with the information and the content of the class, and they felt that the certificate will help open doors for them when they are released into the community.”
Delores Zapata, program manager for continuing education at Palo Alto College, taught a community service training class March 18 with 11 inmates.
During the training class, she covered formal and informal wear, professional critical letter reports and email etiquette.
She engages with the inmates on a personal level by sharing personal experiences in the workplace.
Inmates shared their viewpoints on situations they dealt with in past jobs.
Zapata even shared her personal experiences with getting laid off and how she handled that situation.
Zapata said this was the second class she has taught, and she already knows the names of all 11 inmates.
In one interactive assignment, the inmates practiced how to deal with abruptly leaving a job because of a family emergency.
Inmates had to write a formal letter to their manager informing them about the inconvenience.
As each inmate read their letter out loud, fellow inmates and Zapata clapped and shared encouraging words.
“I love teaching them; they have a hunger for learning,” Zapata said. “They have the skills, but no one’s ever asked them to demonstrate them.”