December 24, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

Inside a small classroom at the Breckinridge County Detention Center, men and women were learning to write a résumé, fill out a job application, respond to interview questions, and use good manners to help get and keep a job.

They also learned how to budget their money so they can pay bills and meet their obligations. Parenting and coping skills to help them throughout their lives also were on the agenda.

The men and women are inmates at the detention center and are being helped to make a fresh start by Martha Slemp, Family and Consumer Science agent for the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service in Breckinridge County.

Many of the participants in the 16-week program did not know what a resume was or how to type. But everyone wrote one and typed it themselves. They also went through an interview with three people to help them with their skills.

“We really focus on self-esteem, budgeting, résumé writing, preparing for an interview and bringing that all together with an actual interview then with some parenting at the end,” Slemp said. “Initially, it began for anyone who was going to be out within six months, but word spread and others have joined us along the way.”

The inmates said the classes, which are conducted separately for the men and women, have helped prepare them for life after the detention center.

“This is a wonderful class,” Carol Rowland said. “I’m ready for an interview and to get my resumes out, and I’m ready to get out of here and do it. I worked in a factory and I loved it and I want to get back out and do it again.”

Geneva Armes said it took her two classes to type her résumé because she did not know how to type.

“But I did it and I’m real proud of it,” she said. “I’ve never had to do a resume before so this was very good experience.”

Slemp said she initially was approached by Karen Shrewsberry, assistant to the jailer, about programs that could be offered to the inmates.

“Really, the goal was how can we get them ready to start over,” she said. “I told them from day one everybody makes mistakes and we are here to do something new and start over.”

Dean Bellomy has been through most of the classes.

“I’d have to say the budgeting part was what I enjoyed the most,” he said. “It’s something everyone has to deal with everyday.”

For Donald Reinstedler, attending the classes initially was just for something to do but he ended up learning a lot, he said.

“The résumé writing helped a lot,” he said. “It gets me ready to get a job when I get out.”

Karen Shrewsberry said the idea was to provide something for the inmates to do and to better prepare them for leaving the jail.

“When they leave, they tend to get a little anxious about falling back into their old habits,” she said. “And we wanted to access some of the people in our county so I called the Extension office and Martha was very willing and excited about coming. We just wanted to give them a little better opportunity of making some good steps on the way out. It’s been a good program and given them an opportunity to talk about things they normally don’t such as budgeting, and I think they’ve been very excited about it.”

Breckinridge County Jailer Allen Shrewsberry has been in office nearly a year now and said when he was running for office he made several comments that there was more emphasis put on incarceration rather than rehabilitation. This program helps to address that need.

“Karen and Martha deserve all the credit for this program,” he said. 

Learning to tackle a double-knotted tie was part of the program for both the men and women and elicited a lot of laughter. It also provided a chance for the participants to aid each other.

Jessica Duncan said learning to tie a tie was a real experience.  “I lived with my grandfather and he’s a farmer and didn’t believe in ties,” she said.

Knowing how to tie a tie is important for both men and women, Slemp said.

“Women need to know how to tie ties because a lot of waitress jobs require ties now,” she said.

Slemp also helped the inmates have something to send home to their children for Christmas. By bringing in material for them to work with, each inmate was able to make a blanket for each of their children for the holiday.

Carol Rowland said making the blankets meant a lot to her and the others in the program and they were thankful for Slemp providing them the opportunity.

“If it hadn’t been for Martha letting us do this, our kids wouldn’t have anything from us,” she said. “It made me feel good to send something home to my kids.”

David Hack has been released from the detention center since going through a number of Slemp’s classes and has returned to the job he had prior to being incarcerated.

“The main reason I went to the classes was to go and see what I could learn, and it was an opportunity to get out of the jail cell for awhile and be in a different environment,” he said. “I went to every one of the classes and I got a lot out of the classes and she’s done some awfully nice things for the people in there.”

Information on budgeting, self-esteem and self-control were some of the key parts of the program for him, Hack said.

Hack said the classes are important and that other people can benefit as well.

“She offers a lot of new knowledge,” he said.



Source: Martha Slemp, 270-756-2182