Good Advice Heeded Leads to a Successful Reentry

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Gino works in Pioneer Industries' Quality Assurance department that inspects aerospace and commercial parts before shipment. He wrote a letter of thanks to our federal residential reentry staff for working with him and giving him solid advice years ago that led him to where he is today.

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There comes a time in life when facts and choices must be faced. Pioneer Human Services helped me to straighten out my priorities, see a new vision in life, face the past and move forward with a new chance for employment.

I spent most all of my adult life going to school, working and spending time with my family. The career path of a Journeyman-level machinist for 20 years took me many places in the job market. What some do not understand is money and education does not always lead to happiness and wise choices. In some cases, as mine proved, both would lead to some very bad decisions. The consequence of my poor choices was that I spent seven years at the Lompoc Federal Penitentiary.

After the initial entry into the big house there was plenty of time to think and reflect. I could have sat around like many watching television, playing boards games and running around in the mix, but the issue was that it did not fit my personality. During my time there I took a class covering proper decision making and planning goals for reentry. The light bulb turned on very early in my sentence. The penitentiary offered college education through Allan Hancock College, including behavioral psychology classes and religious services which slowly began to change the way I thought. The change I learned was to think of others, not just myself. The problem I faced in thinking was not impulsiveness - it was self-righteousness and the ability to act upon that personality flaw in an unlawful manner. That is a very difficult personality trait to overcome later in life. I was 46 at the time, and intense rehabilitation needed to take place.

From Lompoc, the Federal Bureau of Prisons sent me straight to Pioneer Fellowship House (PFH) in Seattle, a residential reentry program that serves as a bridge from incarceration back into the community. The transition was hard and bumpy due to the fact that I still harbored many ill feelings about my entire prison journey.

The first person I met at PFH was a case manager and she, along with my probation officer, a Pioneer behavioral health counselor and the program director sat down with me to map out a plan for my successful reentry. First up, I had to deal with court ordered psychological issues, get necessary documents, fulfill court mandated drug/ alcohol testing, and finally secure a job. During my initial stay, until February 2015, I took advice like a stubborn mule. The consequence was I violated my probation and a federal judge ordered me to be sent to the SeaTac Federal Detention Center for 30 days.

After serving my 30 days, I went out to find a job. For three months the answer from every employer was a persistent, “NO.”  The memory of hearing about a Pioneer aerospace manufacturing training program came back to me. I remembered learning about the aerospace program when I participated in Pioneer’s Roadmap to Success job-readiness program. I jumped at the chance to enroll in the 10-week opportunity. After graduation, it was only a week later that I landed a job at Pioneer’s Plant 2 as a production assistant. Three months later I was promoted to a Tech 1 in the metal vinyl division and then after 22 months I was hired in Quality Assurance.

One day while working at my computer work station the memory of the former director of the Pioneer Fellowship House, Joe Miller, flooded my mind. It was a memory of him sitting down with me privately. In the room he told me that I had embarked on a new course in life. He told me the ways of my past would work no more and if I would buckle down and do what was required there would come a time when the judge would grant my release from federal supervision.  At the time what he said was second thought, but the seed was sown for a dramatic change for the better in me. His words were like an epiphany of truth.

I can honestly say I would not be where I am now at this moment, with a meaningful job and family to come home to, if it was not for what Mr. Miller said, and for all the people who worked for him struggling to try to get me to understand that things needed to change. You have to realize, at the time I was over 50 living in a halfway house and thinking I had it all figured out. There are times at any point in life where the advice of others is needed to check erroneous beliefs. Change then comes from the inside; how we think, feel, value and believe starts from an inward point.

Over the past 30 years I have worked for many companies, including the largest employer in the Puget Sound. But I have never worked for any employer that has the knowledge base, resource, compassion and motivation that Pioneer Human Services and Pioneer Industries provide to help those struggling with reentry issues after incarceration. They truly give me a Chance for Change.