Program Gives Inmates New Skills

An award–winning program based at the Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center in San Bernardino helps inmates escape the spiraling cycle of drugs and crime consuming their lives by teaching them the job and coping skills they need to survive on the outside.

“We try to figure out how to transition them back into the community,” said Miriam Gomez, director of the Inmate Rehabilitation though Occupational and Development Systems (InROADS) for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

“The biggest problem that many of them face is their lack of education,” she said. “There is a direct correlation between that and them ending up in here.”

Inmates who enter the InROADS program without a high school diploma are required to attend classes and earn their GED while in custody.

The other difficulty many inmates face is addiction. That’s why some inmates shun participation in the InROADS program when they first arrive, but after they sober up, many take advantage of the opportunity to try and better themselves.

“It’s really up to them,” Gomez said. “They can take advantage of this opportunity and move forward with their lives.” (Though some inmates are required by court order to take part in the program.)

In addition to paid social workers and drug counselors, scores of volunteers from Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous come to the jail to help inmates who want to kick their habits.

Many inmates who get sober and earn a GED still lack the skills necessary to land a job when they are released, so the Sheriff’s Department partners with Chaffey Adult School, Cal State San Bernardino, San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, and the County Department of Workforce Development to offer a variety of occupational training.

Inmates develop skills and gain firsthand experience in trades such as bakery, computer skills, printing, landscaping, and food preparation. In fact, inmates from the Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center often cook and cater a variety of tasty food and treats for public events hosted by the Sheriff’s Department.

“We put them to work and teach them responsibility and how to get along with other people,” Gomez said.

Inmates can also attend classes in anger management, parenting, and life skills development.

“Our aim is to teach them to think about the consequences of their actions so they don’t end up in here again,” Gomez said.

When inmates are close to their release dates, InROADS staff work with their partners to help inmates secure a job, and, if needed, find a place to live when they are back on the outside.

“Many of them have burned so many bridges with family and friends that they don’t have any place to go when they leave here,” Gomez said. “We work to find them a stable place where they can live and stay sober.”