As a job, I am a crew lead of four people in a prison laundry. I make decisions on how to sort and process loads of laundry to the tune of two and a half million pounds of the stuff a year. Its nasty work. Its often wet and heavy and full of all the awful things you could think of. Feces, urine, blood, vomit. Have you ever washed socks? Sure you have. Have you ever had to empty one filled with days worth of excrement before you started? Probably not. Some areas of the prison house very mentally ill people. Prisoners also have higher rates of hepatitis and other blood borne illnesses and its a real danger for these men and I if we don’t practice the proper procedures to guard against them. There is no glamour in what we do. But it wouldn’t come together so well if I didn’t have some sort of soft skills.

Soft skills… the ability to communicate with the recipient in mind. The ability to humanize my coworkers. The thing that most human resource departments warn about if you can’t develop them. You can’t inspire people to do the shittiest of work if you top it off by being an asshole. And its a thing that’s routinely overlooked when training inmates for future employment. While Washington State’s Correctional Industries offer a one time, 8 hour class on getting along in the workplace, nothing is in place to reinforce these practices. Its near impossible to take a gang member, or even a former one, and put him in charge of a task ahead of other people and not get the hyper masculine, alpha male abuser. A lifetime of bad wiring can be undone, but a system has to be in place. If they would cultivate a real-world work place culture and hold staff, both inmate and civilian alike, accountable, then maybe… just maybe… we could crack the nut of employment barriers and condition people to find meaningful employment. Hell, any employment. Next to an education, employment is the best thing to keep people from recidivating.

But you can’t hold a job if you can’t get along. You can’t be a leader if you hold contemptuous feelings for those underneath or beside you. You simply can’t talk crazy to or bully or abuse or disregard team members. So, soft skills… let’s teach those. Let treat this business like someone is paying for it, because someone is. You, the taxpayer. And let’s demand reconditioning and training that reinforce practices that ensure these men come out far better than they came in. You just can’t pull a guy from a gang, or any angry personality, and give him power. You have to build humanity. You have to guide him to a better way to be and gently enforce the boundaries of what’s acceptable with communication and purpose… The soft skills. The next HR department will love it and it could mean one less burden on the state.

by Rory Andes

write me at using Rory Andes # 367649

or write me at

Rory Andes # 367649
PO Box 888
Monroe WA  98272