Prison Outreach: From ‘Vet’ to ‘Con’ to Tower Dawg

Veteran inmates at Manzanita Prison, Anthony Paz, Kathy Gill

Kathy Gill was nervous, but then she always gets nervous when she goes to prison.  This was her fourth time.  A woman who had built a company, trained hundreds of men and women to work past their fears and climbed a countless number of towers in all conditions, was wishing she was someplace where she was more comfortable, like dangling from a harness 150 feet in the air.

At least she wasn’t alone at Manzanita Prison in Tucson; she had an ex-con with her to ‘show her the ropes’ as she had done for so many of her tower tech trainees.  They were waiting for DOC and DES approval to go inside an extremely secure grey-fenced compound where there are no plants and lots of dirt.  “Lots and lots of dirt,” Kathy noted.

Her companion was Anthony Paz, a 10-year veteran of the wireless industry, owner of a fledgling tower company called Copper Sky Communication and a former nine-year guest of the federal prison system.  When Paz was released, he found it difficult to find a job.  He knew what these men, all of them veterans of the military, faced when they finally got past the gates. 

When clearance for entry into the facility finally came down, they were wanded and sent through the sensors, allowed to carry only a driver’s license and car keys. Guards led them through an open yard and into a unit that housed up to 250 men, ages 20 to late-70’s, who were all military veterans.

The housing reflects their service; walls are painted with elaborate renderings representing each branch of the military. “The American Flag is everywhere,” Gill said, “eagles are flying on the walls and so much patronage to the United States, it’s sad to see so many veterans incarcerated.  We shook many veterans’ hands, said our hello’s to everyone and 100-plus men gathered around to listen to Anthony’s story.”

At times Anthony had to pause and tears were welling up in his eyes as he spoke about being inside and the struggles of trying to get his life back after being released.  The men intently listened to Anthony talk about his time in prison and his efforts to get a job once he got out.  He told the inmates he tried again and again for a career, a hard obstacle to overcome when you have the word ‘felony’ on your record.  The title “convicted felon” has a connotation of extreme and heinous crimes, although the reality is most are drug charges, DUI’s, or thefts, according to Kathy.

“Anthony testified about missing out on life and family moments when sent away for his crimes and swore to himself he was never going back in,” she said.  “He continually put in his application, friends and family tried getting him hired at their place of employment, but no one was giving him a chance, so he had to accept small various jobs, obtained a real estate license, started selling homes.”

But one day an old friend called him.  A woman he knew for many years, a veteran and a wireless professional.  She started training Anthony on the industry equipment and knowledge of the systems and was able to get him a job in the wireless industry.  Anthony was hired immediately and has worked for SAC Wireless, General Contractors and now for himself!

Before Anthony could finish, the men were excited to ask questions about him, the industry, the opportunities that might be open to them.

Kathy’s company, Telecom Technical College, works closely with a team consisting of Dept. of Corrections (DOC), Dept. of Economic Security (DES) and state agencies that allow them to help inmates into the wireless industry.

“The ability to give these and all incarcerated men hope for a career in telecom is TelTech’s goal,” Kathy said.  “Telecom Technical College and individuals like Anthony, DOC, and DES are the ones making this possible,” she said, ‘and we are doing this together, please let us know if you would like to join our cause.

By Jim Fryer, Managing Editor, Inside Towers

August 10, 2017

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