The Arizona Prison Employment Program Put Me On The Path To Career Success
Over ten years ago, I made a series of terrible decisions that resulted in a felony conviction and a 6-year prison sentence. When I first entered the Arizona Department of Corrections in Perryville, I did not allow myself to imagine what my future held for me. I felt like I had ruined my professional life.
Today, I’m a senior executive at Adobe, a computer software company. I’ve built an incredible career in an industry I’m passionate about. And none of this would have been possible without the job I had while I was incarcerated.
For most of my time in Perryville, I worked for Televerde. It is a sales and marketing services company, and a significant portion of its workforce is made up of incarcerated women in Arizona.
Prison labor needs reform, but Televerde does it well
This last part often attracts the attention of prison labor critics. I’ve seen the recent talk about for-profit corporations using prison labor in Arizona. He is immediately labeled as an exploiter, but sometimes the analysis doesn’t go far enough to give a more representative and balanced view, as was the case in The Republic’s “Prison Sell” series. .
I say this as someone who recognizes that changes are needed within the prison system, particularly in relation to prison labour. But I can tell you from first-hand experience that Televerde is a company that does it right, and its commitment to uplifting the incarcerated community is both legitimate and effective.
Dig deeper:A price to hire correctional offices, but they are paid much less
I applied to work for Televerde about three months into my sentence in Perryville. It was the highest paying job available, and I saw it as an opportunity to accumulate savings to help me restart my life after my release. It was also the only opportunity available that I felt would allow me to continue to develop business skills and work experience that could lead to a meaningful career after prison.
I was hired as a reports and systems analyst. I saw the position for exactly what it was: an opportunity to learn, grow, and stay current with technology trends and applications. Perhaps most importantly, it was a position that gave me purpose. I don’t know how I would have survived my time in prison if I hadn’t had Televerde.
Their business model offers a second chance
The women I worked with were diverse in terms of education, experience, and ethnicity.
The support I received from the company and my colleagues inside prison and after my release was, and still is, very impactful in my life. That’s why I’m active with the Televerde Foundation, the non-profit arm of Televerde’s business, as a mentor to other graduates. I pay it forward to make a difference in the lives of the women who will come after me. When we are hired, we are edified. We are told that we are valued and that we are more than our worst mistakes.
To my knowledge, there is no other prison program like Televerde’s that provides opportunities for women. Like many other female graduates of the program, I left with the skills to take on lucrative positions in technology, marketing, sales and more at industry-leading companies.
Many of these are made possible by the strong relationships the company builds with its customers. And many of Televerde’s customers strongly believe in its second-chance business model. I’ve seen leaders in our client organizations express a genuine interest in our success, go above and beyond to engage with our teams, and then hire us as we release.
I wouldn’t be where I am without it
Working for Televerde has not been easy. You must devote hours: to learn, to study and to sacrifice. I left my role as an analyst to become a junior customer success manager. This was the turning point that put me on the path where I am today. I wouldn’t have made a career in my current field if I hadn’t been in prison.
Televerde has graduated over 3,500 women from its prison program. The overwhelming majority have gone on to build successful professional careers in business, which was once unthinkable for anyone with a criminal past.
The experiences of a handful of women cannot be what defines Televerde’s 27-year-old model, just as we would never allow a few to define a company that does not use prison labor (a quick scan of Glassdoor will show vastly different employee experiences, even for the most beloved companies).
The most authentic companies continue to evolve and adapt, improving the experience of all their employees. As someone still committed to the nonprofit work of Televerde, I know that Televerde is that type of business, and there are thousands of women who have also gone through the company’s program who would support me.
Lorena Fortuna is the Senior Demand Generation Manager for Adobe. Lorena graduated from Televerde’s prison-to-workforce program at the Arizona Department of Corrections in Perryville in 2015. Contact her at Lorena01@gmail.com.