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Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) officials met with government officials from the National Institute of Adult Education (INEA) in Mexico City to find a solution to the challenges created by the tens of thousands of undocumented Mexican immigrants in U.S. correctional facilities. Upon release, these inmates are deported back to Mexico where they have an even smaller chance at success than they did before; the great majority simply attempts to cross the border again in search of a better life. The issue authorities face is how to make sure they do not try to reenter the U.S. illegally once they are released and deported.

Educational and vocational programs have long been offered to help inmates learn a skill, get a diploma, and be more employable when they are released so they will be less likely to return to prison. CCA and the Mexican government worked together to build upon Mexico's education program to create one tailored to Mexican national inmates in the U.S. that will better educate and train them to ensure that, once they are released, they will have the education and skills they need to be successful in their home country. Giving these individuals the tools to succeed in their native country is a practical way to decrease the likelihood of them illegally reentering the U.S. As a result of the meetings, the Mexican National Education Program was formed with a goal to provide educational and vocational preparation for Mexican nationals geared toward eventual placement in meaningful, stable jobs and to help them return to their country drug-free, literate and skilled in positions needed in their work force.

INEA supplies the participating facilities with materials and national curricula for the primaria level (grades 1-6) and secundaria level (grades 7-9). Once the inmates receive secundaria certificates, the Colegio de Bachilleres (COBACH) provides curricula for the preparatoria level (grades 10-12, which is equivalent to high school and basic college education). The Center for Qualification of Industrial Work (CECATI) provides certificates to inmates for vocational courses. Classes are taught in Spanish by instructors and inmate tutors, who are trained and certified by INEA. Vocational classes, also taught in Spanish, emphasize skills related to industries in high demand in Mexico such as carpentry, masonry, maintenance and plumbing, as well as the computer and electrical fields. Classes focus not only on technical knowledge but also on professional career skills such as business management and self-employment.

Because drug-related offenses can be high among the inmate population, substance abuse treatment is offered using CCA's therapeutic community model. A faith-based program on applied basic life principles is also offered. The combination of programs is extremely powerful, and it affects inmates on many levels--mentally, spiritually, intellectually and physically. As these individuals become viable, productive citizens in their home country, their need to return to the U.S. illegally is tremendously reduced.

CCA now offers the program in six of its facilities: California City Correctional Center in California, Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico, Crowley Correctional Center in Colorado, Diamondback Correctional Facility in Oklahoma, Eden Detention Center in Texas and the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Ohio.

To establish a program, a facility first contacts the local Mexican consulate for assistance. Next, the staff identifies the number of inmates eligible and interested in the program. Each inmate has to be surveyed to determine the level of education he or she requires. The facility then schedules training for the staff and inmate tutors. Representatives from INEA conduct a short, intensive training to review the materials; teach the methodology for educating adults; and explain such items as the testing process, how to obtain certifications and how to fill out paperwork. Once the program begins, a program coordinator at the facility makes sure the program is on track and helps the inmates earn their certificates.

Several of the facilities have expanded the program to offer university degrees through distance learning, as well as continuing education courses in prelaw and business. In large part paid for by inmates, the expanded offering is supported by many sources such as the Mexican government, volunteers, CCA in general, and inmate welfare funds as far as state and federal governments will allow. Based upon discussions with the Mexican government, all parties believe that the cost of providing the program substantially justifies the return on investment--with interest--as offenders returning to their home country are better suited to work.

CCA has given a total of 2,154 primaria, secundaria and preparatoria certificates since the program began. The program has had such a profound impact that the Mexican government has expanded it to non-CCA facilities. Today, nearly 5,000 Mexican national inmates are enrolled in the program in 32 facilities in 14 states, according to INEA's 2006 data. The program is also active in Canada, Spain, and other countries in Central America and South America, offering the same curricula.

When the inmates have completed their sentences and go home to Mexico, many choose to contact INEA, Colegio de Bachilleres and CECATI to continue their educations. Those inmates with Mexican diplomas are getting well-paying jobs in advanced fields, and they are prime candidates for jobs with foreign national corporations located in Mexico. Education that specifically targets the needs of illegal aliens and helps them to be productive citizens in their native countries is an approach to a growing national problem that all facilities should consider.
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Private Sector News; National Institute of Adult Education
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Dec 1, 2007
Words:900
Previous Article:Challenging Experience: An Experiential Approach to the Treatment of Serious Offenders.
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