When Roberto Vallejo was sent to the jail four months ago, all he wanted was to see his kids again.
"Because I’m going to be gone from them for a long while," he said.
As a nonviolent offender, he was offered a chance to enroll in Bexar County Jail's PATCH (Parents And Their Children) program. Its main short-term benefit is bi-weekly, in-person visits between inmates and their kids. Vallejo signed up as fast as he could.
“It caught me by surprise, my tears dropped out, I started crying. It feels so good to see my kids in person," he said.
But there's a longterm benefit to the PATCH program, too. It teaches inmates how to be better parents, and gives them the tools they'll need to stay out of trouble when they're released.
“We want to help them get those skills, get that education so we never have to see them again," said James Keith. He's the Chief Communications Officer for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.
Keith also says this program can end up keeping the inmates kids from following their leads and ending up in jail when they grow up.
“We want them to be able to teach their kids, look I made a mistake, I went to jail, I paid a price, but we’re not going to do this again and you’re definitely not going to go to jail," he said.
Friday's class was focused on employment. PATCH technician Ryan Villanueva led the inmates through lessons on filling out resumes, networking and interviewing. He says the toughest part of a former inmate's job search, though, is the stigma.
"Unfortunately that’s something they have to face,” he said. “I try to prepare them for the realities they’re going to face, the realities of the working world and the attitudes they’re going to have to face, but to know who they’re trying to become.”
For Vallejo, at least, the program seems to be working.
“It already changed my mind a lot, when I get out of here I’m going to stop drinking and spend more time with my family," he said.
(© 2016 KENS)