Building a Future

Efrain Alverio likes his job so much he shows up on the weekends to work. But he's also counting the days until he can get a new job. Alverio is a Manatee County Jail Inmate working in the carpentry program.

" Everyday I look in the paper and see jobs I can do," Alverio commented while taking a break from building park benches for the county. "The program has helped me a lot and I will use this experience to find a job on the outside."

Jim Eisner, the carpentry instructor for LIFE, has nothing but praise for Alverio.
" He's a diligent hard worker and a good example for other inmates," Eisner said. "He is always ready to work and never complains. I would highly recommend him to any employer."

Alverio is proud of the work he's done while in the LIFE program and he also realizes the importance of on-the-job training. " It's like a regular job," Alverio said. "We've built benches and storage sheds for the county and also fixed a bunch of doors. I've learned so much about using different tools."

Whether or not Alverio succeeds when he's released from jail is up to him. But one thing certain is he now has the necessary job skills to be gainfully employed and that's what LIFE is all about!

A Changing Appetite

Ebony Brice has been in and out of jail since she was a teenager, but it wasn't until recently when the26-year-old mother of five realized that enough was enough. The breaking point for Brice was when she gave birth to her youngest child while she was jailed.

" I can't keep doing the things that got me here," Brice said. "I'm getting older and I'm throwing my life away. I have a family to take care of."  Brice is in the culinary arts program learning the delicacies of the food service industry, including preparing and serving daily meals in the jail cafeteria. She not only gets training in the kitchen, but also in the classroom. " Ebony is conscientious and willing to learn," said Chef Sherry Weyhrach. "I can only hope she will be successful when she gets out. I know she has what it takes to make it in this field."

One of Brice's biggest challenges in the program was catering a banquet for nearly 50 people. She said she was nervous, but it all worked out. " It was scary," Brice said, shaking her head. "This is the first time I've tried to do something to better myself. It's there for all of us but we have to want it. We always think about getting out and doing something with what we've learned."

Brice will leave the program with a certificate in culinary arts, which she hopes will help get her a job as a waitress or a cook with the possibility of working her way into a chef's position

Getting Tuned Up

Chances are when a Mercedes with a diesel engine pulls into the garage where Kevin Tuttle is a mechanic, this 38-year-old former inmate knows how to get it running smoothly again. He couldn't make that claim a few years ago."I got the experience I needed to become a better mechanic," Tuttle said as he wiped the grease off his hands. "I've been working on cars for a long time but before going to jail I didn't know much about diesels." He is a full-time mechanic at a service station in Palmetto. "Fuel pumps, problems with the injection system, we see a lot of repair stuff like that."

Years of alcohol abuse and a series of arrests landed him in the Manatee County Jail. During the fall of 1999, he heard from other inmates that he could work on cars while serving his time. Without hesitation, he enrolled in the diesel engine repair course. He joined other students in learning the ins and outs of diesel mechanics. When the class was finished, he wanted to learn more, so he took it again.

After his release from jail, Tuttle's problems with alcohol continued with him eventually ending up in state prison. That's another part of his past he would rather forget, except for the fact that a positive came from the negative. It was there that he was placed in an alcohol treatment program and took part in more educational opportunities. "I got a lot of help and I completed my GED I knew I would need that," Tuttle said smiling.

Today, the black and white striped jail uniform is gone, replaced with a blue pin striped mechanic's uniform. "I look a little different." he said. Mostly, his attitude is different. "I just want to learn as much as I can." He said that he recently enrolled in a computer class and hopes to pursue more mechanic training. "I want to take classes on how to work on auto electrical stuff."

Tuttle appears to be making better choices now. He said he would not want to return to jail but wouldn't trade the experiences he gained. "I'm glad they have the LIFE programs. I know it definitely helped me."