Prior to joining the team, I found myself meticulously researching Televerde and what it stands for. I was pleased to learn that they are a company leading with purpose and people—80% of its employees are located within the walls of Arizona and Indiana prisons. I was required to visit the call centers at Arizona Correctional Perryville for a round of interviews. This made me frantic with intrigue and anticipation!
The day of the visit had arrived, and I mentally prepared myself as much as I knew how— “I’m going to prison today.” My wife held onto our morning hug a little longer than normal. The drive to the fenced-in facility was a blur. The security checkpoint process inside the main building was more rigid than the airport. As I stepped into the sally port and the massive metal door loudly latched shut, I realized I’m here. I’m doing this. There’s no turning back.
I approached the first call center and I thought how should I introduce myself? How can I break the ice? I entered through the call center doors and was immediately called over to a group of women. I walked towards them and leaned over a small wall when I heard a thunderous BOOM! I slammed my eyes shut and held my breath. As I slowly uncurled from the shrunken mess I had become, I turned to see 60 ladies laughing hysterically all because of my ridiculous reaction to a measly box of tissues that had dropped on the floor. Break the ice? Well, that oughta’ do it. My first day in prison was memorable, to say the least.
Now that I am officially a member of the Televerde family, I have the privilege to see the deep inner workings of the business operating inside Perryville. Other than all-orange outfits and some interesting food, I tend to forget I’m even at a prison. It’s like any other call center environment. But we provide intense (college-accredited) new hire training, extensive client/playbook trainings, career mapping (opportunities to work in IT, Client Success, Payroll, etc.), and the hands-on support for pre- and post-release needs. A big differentiator is that these women are more dedicated and have more tenacity than any other group of employees I’ve ever met at any contact center I’ve managed. They live and breathe Televerde.
People ask me what I do for a living now and my answer is simple: “I go to the prison every day and I help women learn skills that are going to change their lives.” These women make the choice to get out of bed and come to work with the drive to learn and be better than yesterday; Televerde is just the vehicle. Sometimes I’ll even add, “I have a captive audience and people that have the time—puns intended.”
High security regulations, strict dress codes, and a ton of walking in the desert are just a few unique things we experience when operating inside of a prison. But we take care of our people. It’s a DOC requirement to accompany the ladies to and from their units and our call centers. I’ll wait out at the front gate at 3 a.m. sweating (or freezing—desert weather, right!) just to walk the women to work. I don’t do this because of what’s written in a job description, I do it because it’s the very least I can do for them.
We often discard people because of one mistake they made. Sometimes we only see the labels and forget they are still human. The women of Televerde break this mold and have changed the way I view the word “felon.” If you don’t know who we are, I encourage you to find out more. If you judge us because of our purpose, I implore you to come spend a day on-site at the prison. I can guarantee you will walk away with a very different mindset.
We are Televerde. We all share the same “why.” We believe in our purpose, we believe in our people.