Training That Our Inmates Can Use in the Real World

Our Workforce Development programs focus on providing offenders with vocational training that will enable them to find employment during and after incarceration. Work release programs provide a community-based experience for offenders before re-entering the community. These programs give local employers the chance to collaborate with the correctional facility by creating a positive public/private partnership in the community while also educating employers on the aspects of offender employment.

The work-release program is coordinated with pre-transition educational and vocational training; the synchronization of these two processes allows offenders to develop a career path by providing them with marketable skills. Local and regional employers and training partners have been involved in the development of education and training programs to ensure that the offenders, being prepared for work release have the hard and soft skills to meet the regional labor market demands.

The hard skills are the industry or task specific skills needed to perform a certain duty such as welding because one cannot be a welder unless they are able to weld. Soft skills on the other hand are transferable skills that an offender needs to maintain employment in any setting. These are the interpersonal skills needed to positively participate in the community, and they differ from the skills required to be successful in a criminal environment.

A regional example of this is the existing partnership with the House of Raeford poultry business. Presently, approximately 100 work release offenders from 3 different correctional centers are working at the House of Raeford processing plant in Arcadia, Louisiana. This plant is part of a burgeoning regional industrial cluster built around the production of poultry products, and the local House of Raeford management team has been a vital partner in the creation of industry specific workforce solutions that involve work release offenders. House of Raeford has steadily increased their use of work release offenders since they began utilizing the program, and they have also provided further opportunities for market penetration in the poultry industry by giving testimonials, making supply-chain introductions, consulting on program development, and assisting with logistical support.

The successful partnership with the House of Raeford, and the poultry industry as a whole, has encouraged further development of industry-focused programming because this approach addresses several market challenges, but the main problem that it assists in correcting is offender recidivism. According to the Re-entry Policy Council, the recidivism rates of offenders who participate in vocation and educational training are lower by as much as 20% to 60% than those who do not; participants create fewer problems during incarceration and earn higher wages after release. The regionally focused work release program also positively impacts local economic development by providing labor force participants that are regularly drug tested, show up on time, well trained, and typically are pleased to be employed. We strive to implement evidence-based programming to aid offenders in their transition into the community. The vocational and educational programs will prepare offenders for the work release program by providing them with marketable skills that will be useful during and after incarceration.

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