Former prisoners find work removing water hyacinth

STOCKTON - When the water hyacinth is finally removed from the Stockton waterfront, it will be largely due to the hard work of a few men -- who are leaving negative lifestyles behind for positive ones.

Aquatic Harvesting, the Bay Area company contracted to do the removal, hired former prisoners to do much of the work. For those men, they finally found employment when other companies turned them down.

Rich Hatton, who hired the men, said the arrangement makes good sense.

"What I want is good workers, not some kid off Craigslist with a bad attitude," Hatton said. "They're dedicated, on time and reliable. It's a good deal for an employer."

John Cachu and Manuel Sanchez were among the prisoners hired by Hatton. They said it's not easy to return to a productive lifestyle after a prison sentence.

"In order to take care of your responsibilities, you need a good job, you need school, training," Sanchez said. "When you can't get that, you can fall into old habits, that lead back to prison."

The men were recommended to Hatton from Helping Other People to Expand. The group has helped about 245 former prisoners get work since 2011.

The Port of Stockton is paying for the removal of the water hyacinth. The port hopes to be reimbursed by the state. So far, about 500 tons of the plant have been taken from Stockton area waterways.


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