For the incarcerated, mentorship and employment opportunities are key to a successful “second chance” outside of prison. Total Electric Inc. is providing just that by hiring inmates and former inmates through the Maryland Department of Corrections and Reentry Program.
Lester McCrobe is a Superintendent/ Safety Director with Total Electric Inc. who has worked in the field for 37 years. He led Total Electric’s inmate initiative after being inspired by his uncle who served 42 years in prison. While doing his time, McCrobe’s uncle worked various jobs for the Maryland Correctional Enterprise metal shop, which armed him with a solid work plan once he was released.
Seeing how this opportunity benefited his uncle’s transition prompted McCrobe to offer inmates similar opportunities through Total Electric. So, he pursued the Department of Corrections and Reentry Program and got things in order. Today, Total Electric provides employment, home plans, and work plans for inmates and former inmates, helping them successfully reintegrate into society.
“I wanted to pursue this because there is a great pool of people to pull from who have amazing discipline and are eager to learn,” McCrobe said.
McCrobe says some inmates have existing construction skills or prior electrical experience, while others have clerical skills such as warehouse training. Total Electric works with each individual to align their experience and help them build their skill sets as needed. They start working with the inmates in a prefab shop before transferring them to in-field work once they’re ready.
“The workers are very appreciative of the opportunity,” said McCrobe. “They’re willing to do anything asked and are very devoted.”
When McCrobe visits the Maryland Correctional metal shop, he says inmates often ask him about home plans and employment upon their release. Knowing that this option is available to them gives them something to look forward to upon their release.
Of course, challenges can arise sometimes when an inmate has been institutionalized. Depending on how long they were incarcerated, it may take some time for them to adapt to the outside world again. For this reason, McCrobe spends a few hours of his personal time each week meeting with the inmates. Other contractors at Total Electric also provide their support, which helps create a positive team atmosphere. They talk about the inmates’s goals in life and work, and what the inmate can do to stay focused on those goals.
“It would not be possible for the inmates to make it on the streets in today’s society if it wasn’t for the contractors at Total Electric helping them out,” McCrobe said.
So far, 80% of the inmates Total Electric has hired have successfully maintained a position with Total Electric. In fact, the first inmate Total Electric hired is still employed with them five years later, and has advanced greatly. This person has even started mentoring other inmates who have come to work with Total Electric. Many of the inmates also attend job fairs in prison systems and at various locations talking about their achievements since they were released.
McCrobe hopes to continue helping inmates by providing electrical work and mentorship for many years.
“I believe everyone deserves a second chance,” McCrobe said. “By empowering them to become skilled electricians, we can provide that second chance.”