April is prison reentry month, an important cause at Vehicles for Change. Did you know that every year in Maryland more than 8,000 men and women are released from prison? Sadly, at least 40% will return to prison within three years. Those who don’t often face a bleak future of low-paying jobs, extended periods of unemployment and a life of poverty.
Vehicles for Change set up its prison reentry program with the goal of helping men and women to successfully transition to the community, gain middle-income employment in the automotive field and become productive, law-abiding citizens. In fact, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan visited our program in December 2016 and indicated his support for the work being done to successfully reintegrate former offenders.
Called the Center for Automotive Careers, the program connects with men and women while they are incarcerated. Launched in May 2015, the program is already receiving positive results. To date, 47 have been admitted and served. Interns have earned more than 130 Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certifications. Thirty-four have gained competitive employment at an average starting pay of $15.46 plus employer-provided benefits. Ten are currently paid interns. The potential for salary increases is strong and some now-employed graduates are earning $20 an hour. Former offenders who gain steady employment are 68% less likely to go back to prison than those who do not.
Our automotive training program helps employers overcome concerns about hiring former offender while also connecting participants to vital community resources. Men and women leaving prison are faced with multiple challenges—where to live, how to get medical services, money for food and transportation to name just a few. Helping these individuals become successful contributing members to society is beneficial to everyone.
The Center for Automotive Careers program has already been replicated at the Vehicles for Change’s Detroit location. Fundraising efforts are underway to open a training program in Prince George’s County, Maryland later in 2017. Vehicles for Change is hosting it's second annual Solutions for Successful Prison Reentry on April 26th from 7:00 to 9:00 pm, with a resource fair for returning citizens and their family members preceding it starting at 5:00 pm. The event is free and open to the public. Register to attend on Facebook.
For additional information on the automotive training program, please contact Nikki Zaahir at email@example.com.
Sometimes Joseph goes a month and a half without seeing his kids, ages three years old and one year old, because he does not have reliable transportation. He pays a coworker twenty dollars a week to get a ride to work and to get a ride home. The money adds up quickly and the separation from his children is hard on him.
Joseph just recently graduated from Helping Up Mission, an addiction treatment center in Baltimore Maryland, where he was in their one-year program. It has been difficult for him to get to doctor’s visits; he says he “can’t get anything done without relying on someone else.”
With the help of Vehicles for Change’s car recipient award program Joseph will be able to easily attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings. He will be able to visit his young children at least once a week and looks forward to taking his kids on fun outings.
"They have great customer service and great pricing and they treat you like family it's like they've known you forever. They are honest, and they blessed me so much today. They fixed my car after another mechanic told me incorrect information about it and I had spent a lot of money. They fixed the problem at a fair price. They were a blessing, thank you guys again. I can never thank you enough. They went above and beyond to help me today."
- C. K.
Freedom Wheels is a subsidiary of Vehicles for Change (VFC), that sells non-profit used cars to the public. All sale proceeds from Freedom Wheels are used to support VFC.