Part II: CDL Program at Gadsden Correctional Facility Teaches Residents to Believe in Themselves and Their Abilities

In Part I of the story on the Commercial Drivers License (CDL) program, we focused on the relatively recent implementation of the curriculum at the Graceville Correctional Facility in Graceville, Florida. In this story, we’ll take a look at the CDL program at the Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy, Florida, that’s been around for a while.

“When they leave the facility, they will have a certificate saying that they completed 320 hours of the Commercial Drivers License course,” says longtime CDL Instructor Serina Chambers. “They can take that certificate to the DMV and go ahead and take the general knowledge, the air brakes, and the combination tests to get their permit. They can go out then and someone will hire them.”

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Instructor Serina Chambers teaching Gadsden residents.

Serina has guided many women to program completion and knows whereof she speaks. Not too long ago, Jonte Perry was one of her students. Now, released from prison, Jonte drives trucks for a living.

“I took the test three times before I actually got my license,” Jonte says.

“She went and took her test,” explains Serina. “She failed. But we talked. She went back and she got her license. She’s driving now for a local company.”

“But I never lost hope,” Jonte states. “I say, ‘I’ve been through one of the worst experiences of my life, and I have to push forward in order to achieve this’. It’s not failure until you just give up and you just quit.”

The CDL program is one of many at Gadsden designed to equip women with the tools they need to be successful once they’re released.

Tira Jackson, deputy warden of programs, states, “My whole goal as the Deputy Warden here is to make sure that these ladies will be able to survive and take care of themselves once they leave here…My ultimate goal is to get them program certifications that they can walk out of here, in their hand, [and] that they can use to make a living. And that’s the ultimate goal.”

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Deputy Warden Tira Jackson speaks with former resident Jonte Perry.

“There’s nothing more important to me,” says Jonte, “Than being able to provide for my family.”