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Press & published articles about Diana Williams, Noble Butler and Prison to Employment Connection.

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Mill Valley resident Diana Williams, center, is the co-founder and executive director for Prison to Employment Connection. (Courtesy of Prison to Employment Connection)

Mill Valley woman connects San Quentin inmates to employment resources

Published on
April 10, 2021
by Colleen Bidwell

While it’s never easy to find a job, especially these days, it can be even more difficult for people with a criminal record. It’s something Thedo “Noble” Butler experienced firsthand while he was an inmate at San Quentin State Prison trying to figure out how to get a job from inside the prison. It proved more difficult than he expected.
He expressed his frustration and idea for a job fair for inmates at San Quentin to Mill Valley resident Diana Williams, then a volunteer at the prison. Williams, who has a master’s in counseling psychology from Columbia University, realized that more could be done to help men like Butler. She quickly got to work putting together a curriculum to help inmates get jobs upon re-entry in society.
In 2014, Williams founded Prison to Employment Connection, a nonprofit that connects prisoners to the employment resources they need to succeed post-prison. Williams, the nonprofit’s executive director, leads the 14-week employment readiness program to San Quentin inmates who are within a year of a release date or have a scheduled parole board hearing within six months. She teaches everything from resume writing to how to approach telling a potential employer about a criminal history to tips on handling possible rejection and other skills leading up to Employer Day, where participants meet and interview with potential employers and service providers from across the Bay Area.
The program’s released graduates have a recidivism — or re-offending — rate of 1%, compared to 60% to 65% overall in California.
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Potential employers meeting with Prison to Employment graduates

Prison to Employment Connection teaches returning citizens job skills

Published on San Quentin News
January 3, 2019
by Kevin D. Sawyer

A record number of inmates at San Quentin State Prison completed the Prison to Employment Connection’s (PEC) eighth session and graduated in November.


About 40 inmates finished the program. This gave them the opportunity to assess their employment interests, learn resume-writing and how to conduct themselves during an interview.


At employer day, the men spent two hours using what they learned on how to present themselves to more than 30 employers, career placement experts and trade unions.


“It’s a great program,” said inmate Forrest Jones, 56. “It gives a person like me a chance to get employment.” Jones was found suitable for release by the Board of Parole Hearings in June.


“I feel it’s a wonderful experience and it reaffirms my belief in humanity that these employers are willing to give us a second chance,” said inmate Edwin Hutchinson, 58.


Read the full article here...



Published in San Quentin News
October 25, 2018
by Kevin D. Sawyer

Prison to Employment Connection (PEC) is one of the most valuable programs at San Quentin for men looking to the future. Twenty-two inmates graduated from the program’s seventh session in May.


The week before graduation, the men did face-to-face interviews with employers looking to hire qualified formerly incarcerated citizens.


More than 40 participants enrolled in the program in February to learn interview skills, résumé writing and other forms of communication. In doing so, they were able to determine what career path was right for them upon release from prison.


“I was really excited to interview with some of the employers that I didn’t think I would want” (to work for), said inmate Robert Polzin, 42. He’s been incarcerated two years. He said he thought he’d be a welder but now he thinks he’d be a better supervisor.


Diana Williams, PEC’s executive director, led the employers and guests into the prison’s Protestant chapel, where the inmates formed a single-file line to greet them, shaking hands with friendly smiles. She reminded the men of what they’ve accomplished over the past 15 weeks.


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Prison to Employment Connection prepares men for the workforce

Published on San Quentin News
July 9, 2019
by Kevin D. Sawyer

Prison to Employment Connection (PEC) at San Quentin graduated 44 men from its ninth session in June. The week before graduation, more than 40 business, career and education professionals attended Employer Day at the prison to do one-on-one interviews with the men.


PEC’s 15-week program prepares men to be “job ready” before paroling. According to statistics from Diana Williams, PEC executive director, 210 men have graduated from the program since 2015. Of that number, 96 have paroled and only one has returned to custody.


“We’re all here this after- noon to connect with each other,” said Williams, who discussed how recidivism rates run between 31% and 71%. For those who find employment after prison, the numbers are 3% to 8%. PEC outdoes those figures with its 1.41 % recidivism rate.


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Inmates striving to become working citizens

Published in San Quentin News
July 1, 2018
by Kevin D. Sawyer


The dozens of employers and organizations that support rehabilitation by visiting San Quentin to interview
inmates have captured the attention of the state’s top corrections official.


In May, the prison hosted its fifth Prison to Employment Connection (PEC) event in two years. This time, Scott Kernan, secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), took notice.


“It was really important to be here today,” said Kernan. “It’s a very common-sense objective to get people employed.” He said Gov. Jerry Brown is making employment “a merging priority” with rehabilitation. “Giving someone a chance to earn a living wage reduces recidivism.”


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Prison to Employment Connection holds job readiness event

Published on San Quentin News
January 18, 2018
by Kevin D. Sawyer


The Prison to Employment Connection (PEC) program hosted its sixth job readiness event at San Quentin State Prison, allowing dozens of inmates, employers, unions, apprenticeship programs and career path organizations to meet face-to-face.


Warden Ron Davis welcomed the employers and organizations, thanking them for their time. “At the end of the year, I’ll have been warden three years,” he said. “It never ceases to amaze me the events that happen here. The stuff you guys do here doesn’t happen in other places.”


Diana Williams, executive director of PEC, said, “Forty-seven (inmates) signed up, 36 made it through. They spent the last 11 weeks reading for this program. They created a packet of success. They learned about financial literacy. They’re ready to go.”

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Inmates Preview Job Opportunities Thanks to an Employment Readiness Seminar

Published in San Quentin News
January 31, 2017
by Kevin D. Sawyer


A group of San Quentin prisoners got a preview of job opportunities when they are released, thanks to an Employment Readiness Seminar. Thirty-six inmates and 33 outside guests attended the December event, the latest of four job seminars held in the past two years. “We prepare men for jobs,” said Diana Williams to an audience of employers, inmates, trade union representatives, former inmates, law enforcement, top officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), and other organizations. “We facilitate relationships.”


Read the full article here...


'I Want to Do a Start Over:' Job Fair Brings Hope to San Quentin Prison Inmates Waiting For Parole

Published on NBC Bay Area
December 22, 2016
by Rebecca Greenway and Michael Bott


The program was born two years ago when Nelson Theodo Butler, an inmate at San Quentin, was about to appear before the parole review board. It’s been 30 years since Willie Bridges has been a free man. But with a parole date set for just four months away, he’s now looking for a job — and he might have just found it. San Quentin State Prison held its third job fair earlier this month with 44 inmates, including Bridges, hoping to connect with employers before their release date.


Read the full article here...


Potential Employers Interview Inmates for Brighter Futures

Published in San Quentin News
July 1, 2016
by Kevin D. Sawyer


A group of inmates who will be looking for employment opportunities once they parole got a head start at San Quentin’s third Employment Readiness Seminar (ERS). A panel of 18 women and men from the outside representing employers, trade unions, apprenticeship programs and other organizations attended the event held in May. “I really believe what we’re here for is to connect as human beings,” Diana Williams told the audience. She co-founded and helped organize the seminar with inmate Nobel Butler, a member of the group TRUST (Teaching Responsibility Utilizing Sociological Training).


Read the full article here...


Prisoners Close to Parole Meeting Employers

Published in San Quentin News
Feb 1, 2016
by Tommy Bryant and Kevin D. Sawyer


Twenty-five prisoners got an up-close look at employment opportunities they might encounter upon release from San Quentin during the prison’s second Employment Readiness Seminar. Thirteen businesses and organizations attended the December event that doubled as a Job Fair. As the evening began, there was a hint of nervousness from both employers and inmates. When resumes were presented and interviews started taking place, it did not take long for the room to buzz with excitement as connections were made and possibilities for the future became brighter.


Read the full article here...

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