Spotlight on VCE
NCIA News Summer 2021
VIRGINIA CORRECTIONAL ENTERPRISES—THREE DIFFERENT PATHS… ONE SHARED COMMITMENT
For Virginia Correctional Enterprises (VCE), staff come from various backgrounds and take different paths to VCE. Regardless of how they got to VCE, everyone shares a commitment to successful reentry.
Karl Schnurr, Senior Sales Representative
As I reflect back on my work life over the years, I realize how great my opportunity has been to work in the Correctional Industries field. About 29 years ago, the seed was planted as I worked in sales for a company in Baltimore, MD. I stumbled on the Maryland Correctional
Enterprises (MCE) once in an industrial park and spoke to a woman who explained what they did and who produced the products that they sold. I was surprised to hear that incarcerated individuals created everything I saw in their showroom. She then told me about their mission and I thought it was fantastic that it provided an opportunity for people who were incarcerated to help better themselves.
A few months later, I decided to make a job change. When I opened the newspaper, right there in the middle of the page, was a quarter-page ad for a Virginia Correctional Enterprises (VCE) Sales & Marketing Representative for Northern Virginia. I called to see if VCE was the
same thing as MCE and they said it was… just in a different state. I’m not sure if I felt at that moment that I was "chosen" to work for VCE, but in hindsight I think that is exactly what happened when I saw the ad that morning. Being a sales & marketing representative for VCE is challenging, but so is every sales position. Sales is all about creating solutions for our customers and letting them know we care about the long term outcome for them. The challenges that exist for private sector sales can happen at VCE as well, along with the unique issue that can come from manufacturing in a prison environment. But, you go make the sales calls and share your knowledge of the products and services and you work with your client to close the sale. You both win—you get the sale and the customer gets the product or service they desire. In the private sector that is usually enough, and with the sale comes a commission. However, at VCE there is no commission but you do get one more win.
The third win comes in the form of a third party benefiting every time you ring the sales bell! To put it in terms from the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," every time a bell rings an incarcerated individual gets a job! Well, the thing that motivates me on top of getting the sale is exactly that… another incarcerated individual gets an opportunity to become better. That is a win you do not get in the private sector. To be able to be in a position to help another human be better is a great and powerful thing. Other than my personal mission to make sure I take great care of our customers and continue to create sales solutions for them, this is my daily driving force that helps me pop out of bed each morning ready to go at it again! The more I sell, the more the bell rings!
After 28 years, I am still ringing the bell for VCE!
Dawn Knighton, Apparel Industry Group Manager
Prior to coming to Correctional Industries my experience was in production and quality in private industry in my native Scotland and also in Virginia. I came to VCE as an apparel plant manager as the locality offered family support with my young child. I thought I would work with CI for a year or so… that was 20 years ago!
While I was trained on working with incarcerated individuals, nothing really prepares you for the journey that you take in trying to manufacture a quality product while also being a life coach for the workforce. On my first week in the plant I was faced with many questions, like who are you? Why are you here? Where do you come from? But the question that sticks out in my mind from that first week was, “do you want us to like you or respect you?” I pondered that for a minute and my response was "I don't care whether you like me or not and respect is something you earn, so give yourself some time and you answer that question down the road. That incarcerated individual who asked reminded me of that question eight years later when he was getting ready to go home. He was one of the lead operators by this time and a role model for the other incarcerated individuals. He said that he thought about that question many times in our time working together and he said it was in that moment that I challenged him and it changed his mindset. He went home and for many years would call the institution around Christmas time and tell me how well he was doing! I always explain to newly hired incarcerated individuals that a factory is not a building, it is a group of people who work together as a team to produce a quality product or service, and for a quality product to be produced we have trust and respect each other to do our best. There is not one person that sets out with the goal to fail or make a mistake. None of us are perfect and at one point or another we will all make a mistake… it is how we confront the mistake that determines the success or failure of our product or position. This is achieved through teamwork, knowing it is ok to make a mistake but to make sure that we, as a team, have evaluated what caused the mistake and have developed a viable countermeasure to prevent the same mistake from happening for the same reason again.
It is the team concept of quality that builds a cohesive team and when quality is the goal, it can be life changing as it does not only apply to products or services, it applies to life… quality is key to integrity. My goal has always been to make a difference in each one of the incarcerated individuals who buy in to the philosophy of quality and to make sure that when they go home they have both the technical skills to succeed in an assembly line process and the soft skills to keep the job.
Telesea Sims, Warehouse Foreman
I followed a different path to my 15-year employment with VCE. I started working at the VCE warehouse as an incarcerated individual in 2006 and kept that position until 2011, when I transferred to another facility for intensive reentry for the last six months of my sentence. While at that facility, I received word that I could apply to VCE as a temporary employee six months after my release. I applied right at six months and was hired at the VCE warehouse in 2012 in a contract position. I applied for and became a full-time employee with VCE in 2013. When a warehouse foreman position opened in 2015, I applied and got the promotion.
I’ve been supervising incarcerated individuals for six years and I run a tight ship with high expectations. With my background, I am in a unique position to influence the lives of these workers. I make no bones about it, I come right out and say prison is hard, but working for VCE was the bright spot for me. VCE staff treated me like a person. Getting out of the building and coming to work in the warehouse was like being normal, something I missed in the daily grind of being told when to wake up, when to take a shower, or even when I could watch TV. I tell the ladies that you have a little freedom at VCE, you learn job skills, and can feel more normal. You can connect with the products at VCE and take pride in loading a truck with furniture going to a university where your kid could be attending.
I put myself in prison… no one else did. I tell the ladies that those “friends” you had on the street aren’t your friends—they don’t visit or put money on your books— so why run back to them when you get out and end up making the same mistake? I tell them to get it right because you come back to prison again, the second time will be harder. Remember the things you don’t like about prison life and keep that in mind as you make decisions on the outside. I tell them that VCE gave me time and a chance to make that change and I took advantage of that opportunity with no regrets.
I tell my workers that there is no “I” in team. It’s important to work together to get the job done. Those new workers hearing my “talk” sometimes shrug it off, saying I haven’t been where they are. The senior workers are quick to correct them, saying “the boss ain’t one to mess with as she’s been there.”
I am there for the ladies, and making a difference by reaching out is who I am. For the workers, it’s being able to talk to someone who understands without everyone at the prison knowing and gossiping about it. I’ve gone back to the prison to talk to the incarcerated individuals about my experience and success but working with my crew is where I have the most impact!
VCE Indian Creek Inmate Staff Forklift Team
VCE Plants 038/039 at Indian Creek Correctional Center Helps Combat Recidivism
VCE Plant 038/039 at ICCC certified the six inmate workers in the photo (below) with forklift certifications. Plant Foreman, Michael Krum, is a certified forklift trainer. VCE inmate workers, in good standing, are offered the opportunity to train and become certified forklift operators. These inmates are within 60 days of release, and were excited to receive the certification, which will increase their employability as they reintegrate into society.
Plant 038/039 at ICCC operates four industries, Janitorial, Ink & Toner, Ink & Toner Rebuild, and Drug Testing Kits. The plant employs 25 to 30 inmate workers who gain experience in shipping and receiving, picking and packing, and manufacturing. They also have the opportunity to develop soft skills, such as working with others, effective communication, and problem solving. The staff at Plant 038/039 go the extra mile to provide inmate workers the opportunity to obtain skills that will support their successful transition into the community. I would like to thank my staff, Plant Foreman Michael Krum, Plant Foreman Christana Jenkins, and Production Technician Reginald Brown. We are proud to support the VADOC vision for reentry. Reentry is our business.
In Photo: INMATES RECEIVED LICENSES (l to r) Howard T., Frank F., Kenneth M., Michael Krum (Plant Foreman), Charles Chalmers (Plant Manager), Robert H., Pedro D., LaRon B.-P. (not pictured)
White Bark Warehouse
The VCE warehouse team has fulfilled 1,346 orders since January of 2020. This monumental task was accomplished despite the current crisis by SR Supervisor Doug Todd, Daryl Pittman, Telesea Sims, Tracia Witcher and 20 inmate staff. The VCE warehouse has also been the pilot site for the VCE Apprenticeship Program and recently honored its first graduate.
The VCE warehouse is so much more than a storage facility for VCE. It is a main hub for shipping and receiving of kits, finished products and raw materials for most VCE manufacturing and services being offered. The VCE warehouse's professionalism and flexibility have been on full display since they lost their inmate workforce in the beginning of April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Maintaining the supply chain and comprehensive services that the warehouse provides to all of VCE has been handled by the warehouse staff and volunteers salvaging what could have been a financially difficult fourth quarter. In addition, the warehouse staff has kept up with the sanitation and cleaning of White Bark.
This dedicated team has handled every challenge with the utmost dedication, professionalism and can do attitude. Please help to thank the warehouse staff for all they have done and continue to do on a daily basis.
The Braille Program is a job training program that teaches employable skills to returning citizens while producing quality products for our customers.
Certified proofreaders work to assist new employees in becoming braille transcribers certified through the Library of Congress. Once they receive their transcription certification, they are able to transcribe text into braille. The next level of training teaches returning citizens how to proofread Braille.
It takes a minimum of 18 months to complete the Braille Program. They are then ready to pursue employment as certified Braille workers upon release. This is a skill most often completed as a work-from-home position. VCE has certified twenty-two transcribers, four proofreaders and currently have one inmate working on her music certification.
Most of VCE's Braille work comes from the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired. They send us textbooks from schools all around the state that are in need of transcription. When transcription and proofreading are complete, the transcribed text is provided to DBVI electronically in digital format. They are then able to print the text in Braille (dots) for students.
Virginia Correctional Enterprises (VCE) operates a license plate manufacturing plant at the State Farm Enterprise Unit in Powhatan, Virginia. The Tag Plant is the sole manufacturing facility for all license plates distributed throughout the Commonwealth. The Plant manufactures all Diplomatic plates utilized throughout the continental United States for the U.S. Department of State/Office of Foreign Missions.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has authorized well over 400 different graphic designs for standard, handicapped and personalized license plates for the citizens to choose from. The Plant manufactures over 3 million vehicle license plates per year. With 135 DMV Centers and Selects, as well as many different Dealer locations to distribute plates to, Virginia Correctional Enterprises operates its own warehouse to manage the logistics of distribution. It is in the Tag Warehouse that some very high moving volumes of license plates are stocked and staged for distribution. It is from this warehouse that all personalized plates, as well as many standard production plates, are paired with decals and mailed directly to the customer.
VCE’s Tag Plant employs, on average, 50 incarcerated men and is in direct line with the Department of Corrections Re-entry Initiative. The men are trained on equipment and machines to manufacture a quality license plate as well as computer skills in Microsoft Office for Inventory/Production Control, Shipping and manufacturing reporting. This in turn gives them real and tangible skills for future employment upon release.
Offset Printing Team
The VCE Offset Print Team wishes to thank our customers who have helped VCE fulfill its mission.
The Team is located at the State Farm Offset Printing Facility and is committed to providing a positive workplace that develops and sustains job satisfaction, while equipping 37 inmates with the job skills necessary for re-entry into society.
The Team is looking forward to providing our customers with additional options through an upcoming prepress upgrade including new inmate computers and software.
Virginia Correctional Enterprises is proud to announce that Ms. Thomas has successfully passed all of the requirements for the Warehouse Logistics and Materials Handler Registered Apprenticeship Program.
Applicants must undergo a competitive application process in which all warehouse inmate staff have an opportunity to apply and join the program. Factors included in the application process include:
- Work Experience
- Time in Facility
Ms. Thomas, our first Registered Apprenticeship Program graduate was required to spend up to 500 hours in each of four work rotations:
- Case Goods
- Office Systems
Among other duties, Ms. Thomas managed shipping and install quality control procedures, as well as machines maintenance, shipping logistics and team work schedules. She was selected by her peers and supervisors to be the Apprenticeship Team Lead.
Ms. Thomas anticipates using a combination of supervisory experience, quality control procedures, data entry skills and warehouse logistics in future employment, experience gained through the VCE Apprenticeship Program.
Ms. Thomas credits her success to drive and dedication. “You have to want it. If you don’t have life goals, don't bother applying."
When it comes to watching out for your money, nobody does it better than VCE’s Accounting Department. Whether it’s collecting it, paying it or summarizing it in a variety of financial reports, Accounting touches every dollar of revenues and expenses. And not only that, our staff in Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable provide critical customer service interfacing with our customers and vendors.
Summer Walls in Accounts Receivable performs collection duties, applies a variety of payment types to our customers’ accounts, sends out statements and dunning letters, issues invoices for and tracks deferred revenue balances and assists with fixed asset accounting.
Led by Tracy Davis, Maya Larson, Theresa Beckett and Lori Wright make sure the array of VCE’s bills get paid on time (vendor invoices, utilities, leases, sales tax, etc.). They process inmate payroll, travel reimbursements and our credit card invoice (which is really about 300 invoices in one)!
Oh, if that’s not enough, A/R and A/P not only have to process everything in our accounting system, they have to interface or process all payments and deposits into Cardinal, the Commonwealth’s system. Cindy Williams in Cost Accounting prepares the departmental budget statements, coordinates VCE’s daily cycle counts and physical inventory, reviews and updates standard labor and overhead rates and assists with VCE’s monthly financial statements by ensuring inventory is in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
We also produce monthly, quarterly and annual financial reports for the Department of Accounts, IRS and internal use.
Sussex II Laundry
Congratulations to the Sussex II Laundry Team!
This team is averaging cleaning 85,000 pounds of laundry per week while training 50 inmate staff critical skills for reentry, fulfilling both customer needs and VCE’s mission.
Officers Green & Cartwright, Production Foremen Darrin Cage & Anthony Booker (not pictured) along with Senior Supervisor David Abernathy, under the guidance of Laundry Plant Manager Gary Goode & VCE’s Group Manager of Commercial Services Jamonne Rose have accomplished this impressive task despite numerous obstacles including the consolidation of Laundry Services at Sussex II as well as temporary staff shortages.
Please salute our VCE Laundry Team whenever you see them!
Special Olympics & VCE
Virginia Correctional Enterprises is proud to continue our partnership with the Special Olympics. We were thrilled to meet new friends and participate in the 2019 Law Enforcement Special Olympics Car Show on Sept. 21, 2019 in Bedford, Virginia. VCE showcased our law enforcement K-9 vehicle conversion unit, where our new friends interacted with our staff and car.
The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. Please visit specialolympics.org to find out more about this wonderful organization.
The (5) five person Procurement team at VCE is a centralized department supporting 16 locations, 30 manufacturing plants throughout Virginia We procure raw material, equipment, services and establish long term contracts; ranging from small dollar purchases to large complex procurements. The team establishes contracts that leverage buying power to reduce the over-all cost of manufactured items that are sold to state agencies, cities, towns, counties and institutions of higher learning within the Commonwealth. Procurement is constantly seeking new vendors to enhance the products offered using negotiations and vendor interactions. Currently, the team has 112 active contracts. The team processes over 7,800 orders in eVA, which equates to over $25 Million in fiscal year 18. The Department ensures compliance with state and departmental policies and procedures.
Training and certifications are are in high demand in the Procurement field. As a team: we hold 9 certifications and collectively have over 72 years of experience in Procurement.
The Procurement Department provides oversight to the 33 active credit cards. This oversight includes training, auditing and yearly credit card review class for all cardholders and their supervisors.
The Digital Print Shop affords our customers the ability to have their color jobs done quickly, affordably and efficiently. Our large fleet of presses allow us to meet or exceed our customer’s delivery expectations on a daily basis.
Digital is able to produce complex jobs requiring die cutting, special binding, tabs, UV coating and laminating. Training manuals are one of our specialties. Whether our customers require a 3 ring binder or spiral binding we can make it happen.
Our color envelope press produces quality color envelopes in a wide range of sizes and stock including panel card if needed.
Our dedicated print Sales Rep, Mary Anne Davis-Turner, is always happy to visit with customers to make sure they receive exactly they need.
"Your team does a great job for us and we appreciate your time/efforts!"
"We received the booklets this afternoon and they look great. Thank you for making this job a priority on Friday! Send our thanks to the VCE team for quick turnaround."
"The brochures were just delivered by UPS, JUST ONE WEEK AFTER ASKING FOR THE QUOTE! You guys are the BEST and the brochures look wonderful. Thank you ever so much!! Looking forward to our next business transaction."
The Coding Entry Team processes a multitude of requests for Codes, Systems, Routings/BOMs, and Customer Order Requests (CORs). These requests are generated by our Plants, Services Group, the Sales and Design Team and Specialty Services. The department currently consists of four staff members with six years of combined service and experience, our newest member has been with the team for three months.
The Coding entry team performs research through SyteLine, VCE’s website, and on the shared drive for spec sheets, spreadsheets, and pricing. In addition, the team regularly interacts with Vendors, and their websites to obtain quotes for fabric, vendor parts, kits, costs, and applicable freight; as well as Manufacturing, Sales and Design, and Procurement. Over the past year the Coding Entry Team has processed approximately 6,977 codes that covers finished goods (FG), purchased goods (PG), raw materials (RM), sub-assemblies (SA), D (cut codes), as well as RPR and PU codes for the Install and QIS process.
The Design/CAD Department at VCE provides personalized solutions for our clients' furniture needs. Last year we generated $18 million+ in furniture sales. Projects begin with in-depth client kick-off meetings throughout Virginia with various state agencies, higher education institutions, local government offices and non-profit entities. Our clientele include facilities and purchasing departments, office personnel, outside design firms, architects, project managers and high ranking officials. Our department consists of 5 interior designers, 2 CAD designers and 1 manager located at the Richmond, Northern Virginia and Western Virginia offices.
Our projects range in size from one office up to complete multiple floors with project duration lasting from a few days to a year+. We use our CAD programs to design and space plan the furniture drawings for our clients. Projects typically consist of furniture and fabric selection, project coordination, and project completion oversight. We partner with outside design firms in providing our services for the coordination of large projects.
Our department works closely with VCE sales, marketing, customer service, codes, REMAN, CORS, manufacturing, procurement, installation, and other departments to move projects through to completion. We are also involved in product development for VCE to remain at the forefront of furniture and case goods trends.
We eagerly assist our clients as needed to satisfy their project requirements and to establish long lasting positive business relationships. We strive to obtain support and trust from our clients to gain future furniture sales for VCE through our mission.