Two weeks ago our Job Developer, Rito Andujo-Walker, and I had the opportunity to join other employers when we participated in an employment readiness program at San Quentin State Prison. It’s a two month, in-depth training designed to help inmates with interviewing, resume writing, career exploration and other soft skills development in preparation of their release. The program, headed by Diana Williams and a group of volunteers, do an amazing job.

In total, there were 17 volunteers representing industries such as Non-Profit, Hospitality, Construction, Retail and E-commerce. For the event, chairs were lined up and arranged facing each other in the prison chapel. The men were instructed to interview with the top three businesses they were interested in. Each interview lasted 10 minutes, enough time for employers to quickly learn something about the candidate and provided any necessary coaching.

While one of the goals of this program is to help prisoners upgrade their interviewing and job search skills, an even larger goal was reached — giving these men a sense of hope and a sense of being. Though most of the prisoners I met had been in prison for upwards of 25-30 years, I found myself amazed at the skills, certifications — and in some instances degrees — they had achieved.

Today, Rito received a letter from (Name Withheld), one of the prisoners who participated. In the letter, “John” thanked Rito for his coaching, encouragement and inspirational words during the interview. Rito shared the letter with me and highlighted what I thought captured what the event was all about. “Often naysayers can be a factor if we allow them to rent space in our minds or listen to them. Fortunately a voice of reason as yours brings me back to reality”.

If you’re an employer interested in learning more about or participating in the next mock interview session at San Quentin, please contact me at I can guarantee that it will be a life changing experience for you…….as it was for us. (Click here or keep reading to see his letter )

By Troy Henry, Center Director, Western Addition Career Center