Armando Garcia wants to work as a chef in Las Vegas, but his top priority, he said, is being a great dad to his teenage son.
First, though, Garcia has to get out of the Clark County Detention Center, where he’s serving a 90-day sentence for trespassing after he was arrested on a warrant.
“I want to go back and finish my education, and I like cooking,” the 41-year-old said. “I’d like to one day open my own business.”
On Wednesday, he participated in a program at the jail started by the Detention Services Division called Connecting Access to Resources for Entering Society, or DSD CARES. It matches short-term inmates like Garcia with resource providers to help them get back on their feet.
“Turn it around,” Garcia said. “Be there for my son. He’s 13 years old. I’ve been in his life but not always. I want to show him his dad doesn’t give up.”
Corrections officer Todd Laird said CARES started in 2019. Inmates are offered assistance for solving problems that can mean the difference between staying out of jail and not, he said. A major goal of the program is getting inmates help to combat substance abuse.
Detention Services Deputy Chief Jim Seebock said inmates also receive help in accessing health care, housing, furthering their education and assistance with the basic yet critical task of getting the identification necessary to find work. Providers matched up with inmates include the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, Clark County Department of Family Services, the Southern Nevada Health District and others.
”If they don’t have the skills to be successful, they are just going to keep coming back to jail,” Laird said. “That’s what we are trying to eliminate. In the long run it makes our community safer, putting a productive citizen out into our community versus someone who is just going to keep coming back.”
One of the service providers participating in CARES Wednesday was Ron Schnese of Foundation for Recovery. He said substance abuse, along with mental illness, are major reasons why people end up in jail. If inmates can overcome drug and alcohol abuse, he said, they can transition into a life they never thought possible from behind bars.
“We let them know that recovery is possible,” Schnese said. “We offer them information on options, and we embrace multiple pathways for recovery.”
Julia Lazareck with the nonprofit Prison Families Alliance was also at Wednesday’s event. The alliance works with families of inmates, providing them resources and peer support group opportunities while inmates are incarcerated.
“We call it the hidden sentence,” Lazareck said. “When someone is incarcerated, the family goes with them. They are just serving time on the outside, so we want to provide them the services they need.”
Next week, the American Jail Association is scheduled to present the detention center with an innovation award for CARES.
Garcia, meanwhile, said he’s thankful for the help.
“Just because you fall doesn’t mean you stay down,” he said. “Try again.”