TRAC Expands to MCCCW

TRAC Expands to MCCCW

Returning home after incarceration can be both exciting and stressful. The Department of Corrections (DOC) Correctional Industries (CI) is trying to lessen the stress of reentry by preparing women for employment in living wage careers. Almost 21 years since its pilot at Washington Corrections Center for Women, the CI Trades Related Apprenticeship Coaching (TRAC) program will expand to Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW). With the first class slated to begin late Fall 2018, the 16-week certified pre-apprenticeship program will provide women at MCCCW the opportunity to learn valuable skills in non-traditional fields, while gaining self-respect and confidence.

On July 12, 2018, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at MCCCW for two new TRAC training buildings. Local community members, trade union representatives, incarcerated women, and DOC employees gathered in the facility gymnasium for a formal ceremony. Welcoming the guests were DOC Deputy Secretary Julie Martin and Assistant Secretary Rob Herzog, CI Interim Director Jeannie Miller, and MCCCW Superintendent Devon Schrum and Interim Superintendent Dennis Tabb.

CI TRAC instructors Steven Petermann and John Brown spoke about the program, partnerships with local trades, and the journey to expand TRAC to MCCCW. Steven was especially proud when speaking about his student’s achievements over the past five (5) years. With more than 100 women trained during his time as an instructor, there are currently 31 who are active apprentices in the laborers, iron workers, or carpenters unions. It was evident by the excitement in their voices, Steven and John have true passion and drive to see the program, and more importantly the students, succeed.

Following the welcoming and introduction, special guest speakers provided heartfelt perspective on the importance of expansion of TRAC. Nicole Shaw, whom graduated from the TRAC program at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW), spoke to about her experience in the program and how her life has changed for the better. Nicole is steadily employed as a union carpenter and recently purchased her own home. She credits her success to TRAC, and specifically TRAC Instructor Steven Petermann and Northwest Carpenters Institute Training Coordinator Cindy Gaudio. Speaking directly to the incarcerated women in the audience, Shaw had these words of encouragement, “The fact that it [TRAC] is coming here, to you guys right before you leave, take full advantage of that….Put your mind to it. Just focus, and you’ll hit the ground running. I know I did.”

Christopher Poulos, Executive Director of the Statewide Reentry Council, told of his own incarceration and journey to sobriety. He spoke about how the TRAC program can provide students with the opportunity to transform from a ‘tornado’ wreaking havoc and causing disruption in their loved ones lives, to a ‘rock’ or solid figure both while completing their incarceration and upon their return home. “When I got sober, the internal change was matched with external opportunity, and that’s what TRAC can provide,” Christopher said addressing both the guests and potential future students.

At the conclusion of the formal ceremony, all guests and speakers were escorted through the facility and out a back gate for the groundbreaking. Planning for the construction of the training buildings, which will be located outside the perimeter fence, has been a coordinated effort between DOC Capital Programs, CI, and MCCCW. The program will utilize two buildings. The first will include tool and material storage, as well as a dry shack. The second will be an open-air work area. Students will train in all weather conditions, and the buildings will ensure they gain experience in realistic work environments. Students will not only develop their skills within the buildings, they will also gain experience while assisting with the construction of the buildings. “I guarantee you, it’s the biggest project that TRAC student have ever done, but I am so excited about that,” said John Brown as he went over the building plans.

It can be a surreal experience to witness positive change in what can be seen as a negative environment. Yet, tucked away in the middle of beautiful lush forest with challenging razor wire never far from sight, the overwhelming feeling was happiness. It was truly a day filled with HOPE. ■