You're Hired

Substantial barriers to legal employment stand in the way of ex-offenders post release. Finding a job with a livable wage and keeping the job are more difficult due to their previous criminal histories and lower education levels compared to the general population, according to a research paper by the Washington State Department of Corrections.  
Michael Evans, the paper’s principal author, goes on to say that his state has had success in reducing recidivism with their correctional industries (CI) program. He points out the increased odds of employment with those released after enrolled in the CI program: 40.1 percent of offenders participating in the CI were employed one year after release in 2007 and recidivated at a rate of 34.5 percent. This contrasts with offenders with similar demographic characteristics who were not in CI and were employed at 29.1 percent one year after release and had a 45 percent recidivism rate.

Washington state joins other agencies with similar positive results. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation also has a strong program, as does Indiana Department of Correction. And South Carolina DOC is praising the efforts and funding of a job reentry program that is partnership between SCDC and the Department of Employment and Workforce, which gives participants career-building skills and empowers them upon their release, according to WIS TV in Columbia, S.C.
SCDC Director Bryan Stirling says the job reentry program, which began at Manning Reentry and Work Release Center, is now spreading out across the state. “I think they’re seeing great success,” said Stirling. “They’re not coming back to prison.

Director Stirling says the program is one of the reasons for a decline in the three-year recidivism rate from 23.4% in 2011 to 22.3% in fiscal year of 2015. He also credits the success to sentencing reform in 2010—since then, a steady drop in prison population across the state. The career development coaches inside prison walls say it’s about breaking through barriers for each inmate.

“You have to engage their minds and stimulate their minds to the point where they’re not thinking about being incarcerated,” said Latoya Richardson. “It’s about thinking about what’s outside of being incarcerated.”

Richardson works with inmates at Manning Reentry. She empowers them to get out and stay out. Another statistic Stirling notes as important to this entire conversation, in 2009, right before that sentencing reform, there were 24,460 inmates in SCDC custody. Forty-eight percent were nonviolent offenders and 52% were violent offenders.
In 2016, that population dropped to 20,951 inmates, 34% nonviolent , 66% violent. Director Stirling says that’s all due to that combination of sentencing reform and this reentry program that’s building a bridge for those offenders to get out and stay out.
The state allocated $1.8 million to hiring last year. This year they want more but the $700,000 they asked for is not included in the House’s version of the upcoming budget. They are looking to expand the program past its initial starting place of Manning Reentry and Work Release Center to all SCDC prisons. As of March 2019 they are looking to the legislature to keep the funding coming. Future success of the program may hang in the balance.

New Types of Opportunities
Many types of job opportunities do exist for inmates—from welding to computer coding to food service—though much still needs to be done and only a small portion of low risk offenders thus far participate in these industry-related programs. Beyond the typical industries that were available in the past to offenders (making license plates) training opportunities are available to inmates while incarcerated and post release in up and coming fields such as biotech, HVAC, industrial maintenance, green and solar technology, to name a few.

From April 14-18, companies and agencies that offer CI programs will be gathered in Minneapolis at the National Correctional Industries Association conference to share training programs that address offender recidivism reduction and ultimately changing offenders' lives through innovative job training.
Opening the conference, keynote speaker will be California native Jeff Henderson, known as Chef Jeff, who has met with great success: he is the first African-American executive chef at Caesars Palace and Bellagio, and New York Times best-selling author. Jeff started his culinary career in the most unlikely place, you guessed it, prison. Today, he not only is a successful chef on the Strip, but he has published several cookbooks and a self-help book, is a sought-after speaker and is a well-known television personality and cooking show host.

Using the Favorable Job Market
Jeffersonville Indiana-based Amatrol, Inc. is an industry training vendor which will be publicizing its learning programs for job-ready technical skills on the NCIA show floor. The current job market is favorable for ex-offenders to be able to secure industry jobs, the company points out. “Industry continues to experience a shortage of technically skilled workers at almost all levels. The skill gap is expected to grow worse before it gets better with one study showing a graduation rate of 17% for technically skilled workers while the demand hovers around 30%.”

The company provides skilled technical training in the electrical, mechanical, fluid power, electronics, and advanced automation disciplines. “Amatrol provides authentic hands-on training systems that support specific job tasks and capabilities for a wide variety of industrial applications,” notes Mark Goodman—director of North American Industry.
Its range of learning systems are created to allow industry to upgrade or refresh current skills and also teach new skills as needed. “Our learning programs are designed to be self-paced, flexible, and to create job-ready skills,” the company states.

“Amatrol has successfully designed training programs, curricula and hands-on training applications to support individual growth, advancement, and overall career success that simultaneously support organizational short- and long-term operational goals. Amatrol training is efficient, positive, and measurable,” says Goodman.
An essential part of how its learning materials are developed is its close partnership with key industry clients such as Ford, Tropicana, General Motors, Caterpillar and many others, the company states. “In addition to international skill standards, Amatrol combines industry task research and analysis with partner review and feedback to develop true job-ready skills-based training systems,” they conclude.

A sample of the industry learning program categories provided by Amatrol are: biotech, CNC machine operator, ebooks, HVAC, industrial maintenance, iron and steel, oil and gas, portable learning systems, solar tech, wind turbine technology and workplace effectiveness.

Indiana IDOC Wins Award
In March, the Hoosier Initiative for Re-Entry (HIRE), Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) and the Indiana Department of Workforce and Development (DWD) were nationally recognized for a virtual job fair for incarcerated individuals. DWD accepted the prestigious William J. Harris Equal Opportunity Award at the National Association of State Workforce Agencies’ (NASWA) 2019 Winter Policy Forum in Washington, D.C. This award is bestowed upon a state demonstrating excellence and innovation in the area of equal opportunity.
NASWA honored DWD, HIRE and IDOC as the hosts to the online virtual job fair in the fall of 2018 for 132 offenders at five correctional facilities across the state. Plainfield, Rockville, Wabash and Westville Correctional Facilities and the Correctional Industrial Facility participated in the event, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. Six employers from throughout the state took part, including representatives from another state agency, the Indiana Department of Transportation.
“IDOC and DWD took a strategy that would normally be difficult (an in-facility job fair) and used technology and relationships with Indiana businesses to market an underserved population. IDOC’s pipeline of strong and skilled workers will fill in the gaps Indiana employers have in their workforce. Our in-facility clients are walking out with viable certifications that employers are seeking. I’m excited to see what’s next!” stated Hoosier Initiative for Re-Entry (HIRE) Director Carrie Heck, in a press release.
Currently Indiana’s correctional facilities house about 27,000 offenders in 21 state prisons—and more than 90 percent of them will eventually be released back into Hoosier communities. Among formerly incarcerated adults in Indiana facilities, there is a 33.87% percent recidivism rate in the first three years after being released. Recidivism numbers decrease dramatically for those who are able to secure employment and stay on the job.

HIRE Program
In 2012, the Hoosier Initiative for Re-Entry (HIRE) program was created under the umbrella of the Department of Workforce Development. HIRE’s mission is to help returning citizens reintegrate into society by providing assistance in creating career paths to give their client base the opportunities to improve their lives in a sustainable way through employment. In addition to their work with adult clients, the HIRE program has also established a presence in IDOC juvenile facilities to help reduce generational incarceration.
At the recommendation of the state’s current administration, the HIRE program was transitioned under the umbrella of the Indiana Department of Correction in early 2019. With this transition came the challenge to not only assist citizens who have returned to their community with employment, but to also assist the releasing population by engaging employers earlier in the re-entry process. The HIRE program’s three-pronged approach to a skilled and ready workforce include pre-release employment efforts, post-release employment efforts, and extensive employer engagement both pre- and post-release (see sidebar page 39).

Based on a three-year study completed by the Indiana Department of Correction using a 2015 cohort of HIRE participants, an 85% success rate of HIRE program participants has been shown from program years 2015-2017. The IDOC study also provided HIRE with information to calculate the economic impact that the HIRE program has had in Indiana from program years 2015-2017. It noted that total program allocations were $3.3 million, while wage benefits (post release wages) amounted to $107.7 million overall. Of course, cost avoidance for further incarceration amounted to many more millions of dollars.

CALPIA Programs
The state of California offers career training programs to its incarcerated population as well as managing more than 100 sites where they can work while incarcerated.
The California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) is a self-supporting, customer-focused business that reduces recidivism, increases prison safety, and enhances public safety by providing offenders productive work and training opportunities, the agency tells us.  CALPIA’s program goal supports the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) public safety mission by producing offenders who have job skills, good work habits, basic education and job support in the community, so that, when they are released, they never return to prison.

CALPIA invests in curriculum for offenders, offering more than 127 nationally-recognized accredited certifications, such as AutoCAD, computer coding, dental technology, food-handling, laundry, agriculture, welding, metal-stamping, industrial safety and health, electrical systems, mechanical systems, and maintenance. CALPIA offenders may also earn certificates of proficiency in occupational disciplines to validate skills and abilities obtained during their time employed by CALPIA.
CALPIA manages more than 100 manufacturing, service and consumable enterprises in 35 CDCR institutions, with more than 8,000 offender assignments in manufacturing, agricultural, consumable, service and support functions, including warehouse and administration. The goods and services produced by CALPIA’s enterprises are sold predominately to departments of the State of California and other government entities.

CALPIA’s Career Technical Education (CTE) programs have some of the lowest recidivism rates in the country, with a cumulative return-to-prison rate of 7.13%, they report.  CALPIA established its CTE program in 2006. The program began as a pre-apprenticeship program with instruction administered by journeyman instructors under contract from local trade labor unions, representing Carpentry, Construction Labor and Iron Working. When released, program graduates can obtain employment in their specific apprenticeship fields. CALPIA provides graduates trade tools and pays their first year of union dues.

The CTE program grew to include Marine Technology (Deep Sea Diving) and Facilities Maintenance, and in 2014, CALPIA added a technology component to its CTE portfolio, with Autodesk Computer-Aided Design (AutoCAD) and Computer Coding (Code.7370). In 2016 and 2017, CALPIA added Culinary Arts Management and Pre-Apprentice Roofing.
On behalf of CDCR, CALPIA manages California’s Joint and Free Venture Programs. The initiative created rehabilitative opportunities for offenders in both adult institutions and juvenile facilities to gain valuable work experience and job-skills training. The Joint Venture Program (JVP) operates in California’s adult correctional institutions and the Free Venture Program (FVP) operates in California’s juvenile facilities. Offenders work for private companies while serving their time and are able to earn comparable industry wages. The programs are available to businesses that plan to expand, open a new enterprise or division, return from offshore, or relocate to California from another state.
The wages an offender earns through the Joint and Free Venture Programs are subject to deductions for room and board, crime victim restitution, prisoner family support, trust account, and mandatory offender savings for release. In addition, offender-employees pay federal and state taxes. State law mandates the deduction of 20% of the offenders’ net wages to compensate programs that benefit victims of crimes. The JVP disbursed more than $60,798 for crime victim restitution in FY 2016–17.

California also provides the Industry Employment Program (IEP), which enhances the ability of offenders to obtain meaningful jobs upon release. IEP provides offenders access to nationally-accredited certifications, Federal and State apprenticeship certifications, and internal skill proficiency certificates. IEP provides transition-to-employment services and information.

An appointment at the Department of Motor Vehicles is arranged to provide valid identification within a week after release. In FY 2017-18, IEP began applying for and acquiring duplicate birth certificates for released offenders born in California.  Information and request forms are provided for a Social Security card, out-of-state birth certificate, child support and veteran’s benefits. IEP also provides offenders and their families access to a statewide community resource guide to help offenders successfully transition home.
While the road ahead is steep, much is being done to help provide successful transition for offenders to fully integrate into their communities. Prison industries have proven they provide training and job skills certification, practical experience while incarcerated and support post release. The hope is that this leads them to the point in which the prospective employer conveys the good news: “You’re hired!”

For further information:

Indiana Department of Correction
Margaux Auxier
Communications Director

California Prison Industry Authority
Michele Kane
Chief, External Affairs