Printer Friendly

NIC partnership with U.S. probation: making a difference for federal offenders in the Eastern District of Missouri.

Addressing the employment issues of offenders is imperative to reducing recidivism. National statistics show that 78 percent of federal offenders who returned to prison were unemployed. It is evident that strategies to help offenders return to the community must be created or improved to ensure the long-term outcome of a successful re-entry process. Additionally, collaborating with various partners is another effective tool for improving the options for offenders.

During winter 2001, the National Institute of Corrections provided Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS) training to probation officers from the Eastern District of Missouri. This training, which is offered twice a year by NIC's Office of Correctional Job Training and Placement, includes career development principles specifically adapted for the offender population. The OWDS program focuses on issues relative to offender work force development and provides skills and knowledge to state teams so that they may facilitate all or some of the curriculum in their home jurisdictions. The 189-hour training program consists of three blocks, each 36 hours in length, totaling 108 hours of classroom instruction.

Partnership Training

For the OWDS team from the Eastern District of Missouri, the desire to provide quality training to other jurisdictions was evident. As a result, the team acquired additional certification as career development facilitator instructors. With NIC's assistance, the team provided the full OWDS curriculum to federal probation and pretrial officers from districts across the country. Program participants also included nonprofit agency staff, a halfway house employment specialist and a Missouri State probation officer. The federal probation and pretrial offices that have received OWDS partnership training from the Missouri team include the Eastern and Western districts of Missouri, the District of Massachusetts, the District of Puerto Rico, the Northern, Middle and Southern districts of Florida, the Northern District of Ohio, the Northern and Middle districts of Georgia, the Northern District of Alabama and the Western District of Michigan.

The training opened the participants' minds to the benefits of creating new initiatives designed to assist offenders with finding and retaining meaningful employment. As part of the curriculum, each participant developed a plan to create or improve offender employment initiatives. These plans resulted in several new endeavors, including creating resource directories, providing jobreadiness classes for offenders, planning offender job fairs and identifying resources in the community. Additional plans developed include more collaborative relationships with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, pro-active approaches to employer recruitment, training for staff, a new employment specialist position and identifying offenders' career or training goals before their incarceration to better prepare them for re-integration into society.

Collaboration

Because federal probation's Eastern District of Missouri made offender employment a priority, OWDS training was only one of the Missouri team's endeavors. Another initiative was to find creative ways to improve the options available to offenders. This was accomplished through collaborations with various organizations and agencies such as FCI Federal Correctional Institution) Greenville. By bringing FCI Greenville staff to the table, the Missouri team found mutually beneficial areas that could be developed to improve the offender re-entry process. Together, they realized that by sharing information between agencies, a seamless reintegration to the community for offenders could be created.

Subsequently, FCI Greenville personnel joined the committee hosted by the federal probation employment team to plan a community job fair. As a result of the relationship developed by participating in these endeavors, other committee members--including the probation office staff--agreed to assist Greenville with mock job fairs and an employment seminar. When the nonprofit agency Connections to Success offered to pilot an 80-hour job-readiness training program for women, personnel at FCI Greenville lent their support and the program was implemented within 60 days, providing new resources for female offenders after they are released to the community.

Apprenticeship Programs

The U.S. Probation Office in the Eastern District of Missouri also joined with the U.S. Department of Labor, Federal Bureau of Prisons and community apprenticeship programs to link apprenticeships offered in federal prison to those offered in the community. The Eastern District of Missouri has proposed that this plan be a model for offenders throughout the country. These apprenticeships provide opportunities for offenders to earn an income while learning new job skills. Inmates may receive advanced apprenticeship standing upon their release to the community based on the training they completed while incarcerated. Additionally, a Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations grant was awarded to Area Resources for Community and Human Services, which assists female offenders with job training and placement in nontraditional occupations and apprenticeships.

Community Job Fairs

The U.S. Probation Office in the Eastern District of Missouri has continued its collaborative efforts to plan community job fairs for offenders. Thanks to the 26 agencies that were willing to commit their time, expertise or money, the probation office has been able to offer offenders an opportunity to network with employers who already are aware of the offenders' conviction status and who are willing to consider hiring them in spite of this barrier. Thus far, the Eastern District office has offered community job fairs for offenders on federal, state or city supervision as well as to anyone with a prior conviction who is no longer on supervision. The first job fair served approximately 1,000 offenders and the second served approximately 750. About 40 employers, training programs and resources participated in 2002 and 2003. Fifteen percent to 20 percent of the offenders who attended the job fair obtained employment or entered an apprenticeship or training program.

The success of the community job fair for offenders rests, in part, on the recruitment and education (offender issues, tax credits, third-party risks, etc.) of employers. The relationships between agencies established during the process of planning the job fair extends beyond the one-day event. As such, employer recruitment and education are continuing priorities to ensure that offenders are truly going to have opportunities for meaningful employment. Research supports that a good job match, even for the offender, is a critical element to job retention.

An Employment Specialist

Because of the emphasis on offender employment in the Eastern District and the OWDS training program, the Eastern District's U.S. Probation Office created a position for an officer to specialize in providing employment assistance to offenders. The employment specialist assists with the coordination and implementation of the components of the employment program. Direct services, including assessment, referrals and placement assistance, are provided to offenders. In addition, the employment specialist serves as a resource for staff by providing information and training regarding offender employment.

In spite of the faltering economy and the fact that St. Louis has lost more jobs than any other city in the country, the Missouri/OWDS partnership employment team continues to successfully unite offenders with employment options. It remains challenging but possible when so many people and agencies are willing to work together toward this common goal. There is still much more that can be done. The team members in the Eastern District of Missouri believe that they have created a path to success that they will continue to build on. Additionally, the officers learned that by reaching out to other agencies and pooling their resources, more can be accomplished to truly make a difference in the lives of offenders.

For more information on the OWDS training program, visit www.nicic.org.

Scott Anders is a senior U.S. probation officer and Patricia Doherty is a supervising U.S. probation officer in the Eastern District of Missouri. Scott Weygandt is a social science research analyst with the National Institute of Corrections.
COPYRIGHT 2004 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:NIC Update
Author:Anders, Scott; Doherty, Patricia; Weygandt, Scott
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2004
Words:1248
Previous Article:Supreme Court rules restrictions on prison visitation are constitutional.
Next Article:ACA holds another successful winter conference.
Topics:


Related Articles
NIC addresses the issue of violent offenders in community corrections programs.
Probation and police collaboration: promoting public safety.
Sex offender management.
NIC trains offender employment specialists.
States Eye New Compact for Offenders.
Offenders: The Last Work Force Development Frontier.
Transition from prison to the community.
NIC provides practitioners skills to help offenders with re-entry.
Sensitive to the needs of female offenders.
Missouri's Eastern District finds Success with work force initiative.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |