Panama City Community Release Center Changes Lives Through Gainful Employment

You’re looking at men at work. Not the eighties band – the real thing. Real men doing real jobs, supporting real families. The unique thing about the three men featured in this story is that they are or were incarcerated at the Panama City Community Release Center (CRC), holding down good jobs while finishing up their sentences.

Randy Petersen plans to resume his professional career in the finance industry upon his release. But while at Panama City, he’s most grateful to be employed with a high-paying, full-time job at a shipyard. “I think being able to make money, save money, [and] send money home to my family to help has been a tremendous…opportunity,” said Randy. “[It] has helped a lot to transition back into society.”

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Randy Petersen, resident, Panama City CRC

Tory Price has a job with a great construction company. He plans to stay working with them once released. “…This is stability,” he says. “…I’m getting paid a good amount by the hour and I get paid weekly. So, I mean, it’s something I can build off of, too. There’s a career in it.”

John Riesett was released from the Panama City facility a while ago. He’s kept the job he had then and is steadily putting his life back together.

“Me, I was fortunate and I fell into a good job when I was at the work release center,” explains John. “I had my foot in the door with GCUC. So, you know, it’s all worked out, really, better than I could’ve ever hoped for.”

These men at work represent all the residents at Panama City who are working hard at their jobs during their stay to prepare themselves for the fast-approaching time when they will return to their families. To support these endeavors, all residents are supported by caring staff who assist them as they develop new skills and participate in workforce development activities.

“We have really good leadership here with Ms. Price, Ms. Barber,” states Randy. “They have a different vision about corrections that you can tell their mentality is to motivate people and to get them back into society through gainful employment.”

“…They’re really good people,” Tory agrees. “And they’re looking out for your best interests and they take care of it. So, you know, very, very good people. Easy to talk to. Easy to get along with.”

“They’ve got a good staff there,” adds John. “Ms. Johnson is all about the guys being able to make a paycheck. The ultimate goal at the end of the day is to go home…with something that will help you once you get out. I never had one issue with staff [at the Panama CRC].”

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John Riesett, former resident, Panama City CRC

Didi Petersen, wife of Randy Petersen, thanked MTC staff for the effort they put into helping her husband succeed. “I’d just like to thank everyone at this facility for the way they have treated Randy and I going through this,” she says. “We’ve made friends going through this.”

Randy also reiterated Didi’s feelings toward staff at the Panama City CRC. “The staff here treat you with respect and kindness,” Randy says. “And I think that’s really key. You can tell their whole goal is to get people re-introduced to society.”