Blackstone Finds Value In Former Inmates

Joshua Stockmeyer works the second shift as a welder at Blackstone in Jamestown.

He received a degree from Alfred State College as well as a certificate in welding from Erie 2 BOCES. Not a bad gig making more than $10 an hour, if you ask him.

But Stockmeyer’s latest venture into manufacturing took him a little longer than he expected. That’s because he served a year in Chautauqua County Jail for burglary.

“It was just a stupid thing I did and got caught,” Stockmeyer said.

As a cook within the jail, Stockmeyer learned of a welding program being organized. With his background in the trade Stockmeyer had the opportunity to lead the jail’s welding class.

“It was something I enjoyed doing, and it was an opportunity to get back into it when I was out,” he said.

With the help of then-jail Warden Patrick Johnson, Stockmeyer and a few of his fellow inmates landed jobs at Blackstone.

“The program helps us realize what there could be in a career (after jail),” Stockmeyer said. “It was a great way to get some experience, and that’s helpful for inmates.”

Michael Metzger, president of Blackstone, said he was first contacted by Johnson last year about the manufacturing courses being offered at the jail. Aside from welding, the jail had been offering classes for blueprint reading, he said.

Metzger told the warden he would be more than willing to bring in inmates on the verge of being released. The effort has worked wonders thus far.

“We’ve given them the opportunity to reorient themselves into the community,” Metzger said. “They can use this and put it down on their resumes. This way their last employment doesn’t have to be the Chautauqua County Jail.”

The program, similar to the new “Ready, Set, Work” initiative, is designed to help former inmates land jobs, not back in jail. According to Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace, 92 percent of defendants with misdemeanor charges at the County Jail have been detained previously.

“A lot of them are repeat offenders,” Gerace said.

Stockmeyer understands the difficulties of finding a job after spending time in jail, but he’s finding the silver lining.

“We are the ones who put ourselves into this position,” he said. “But this could be a long-term job for me. I’m very pleased with the company, and pleased with my review I had after my 90 days.”