ROCKVILLE, Ind. — On a Wednesday morning, Marjorie Summers and her co-workers were clocked-in and ready to work another eight-hour day in their call center.
It is a job she’s thankful for because, she says, it saved her life.
“I never thought I would be able to sit in a room full of people and feel like an equal,” said Summers, wiping away tears.
It’s not so much what these women are doing here. It’s where they are doing it.
“You don’t always get an accomplished feeling being incarcerated, but when I come to work every day, I get that,” said Brittany Mullins. “It’s like when you step into the call center, you step out of prison.”
They are inmates at Rockville Correctional Facility, a state prison about an hour west of Indianapolis.
The women are working for Televerde, a telemarketing company with locations inside seven prisons across the country. The company operates in partnership with Securus, which serves incarcerated people and their families with technology to stay connected. It also provides access to free education and re-entry resources.
The women who work here do not take anyone’s financial information, but they provide support and technical assistance for incoming calls.
Inmates must qualify to apply. They must have a good behavior record and no violent history. Candidates go through an interview and, once hired, they go through hours of job training and life skills.
“The first thing they do is they learn that they can learn,” said Michelle Cirocco, executive director of the Televerde Foundation, the company’s nonprofit arm that provides mentoring and post-release support once employees are released from prison. “They learn that they’re good enough to be able to learn business concepts that they never imagined that they could understand.”
“Partnering with Televerde means much more than hiring customer service associates. We believe reentry must begin the day an incarcerated individual enters the justice system. We’re investing in a reentry initiative to equip these inspiring women with business acumen, mentorship, and customer service experience that will translate into a career after they’ve left prison,” said Joanna Acocella, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for Aventiv, parent company of Securus Technologies and JPay.
The idea seems to be working. Statistically, the women who are a part of the program are much less likely to be sent back behind bars once they’re released.
Cirocco points to a study that shows nine out of ten women still had a job five years after their release, and only six percent returned to prison.
“Before this place, you are on a road that you feel like you’re just destined to be there. That’s just what you’re here for,” Summers said. “You never think it’s going to be any different. (But) coming to a place like this and given the opportunity … (I) now have such an impact … on myself and on my family, and the people around me.”
Summers said she looks forward to heading down a different path when she’s released.
“I’m more focused on what I want to do outside of here…like having a job, not going back to the streets, not feeling like that’s all that I’m worth.”