It’s not in my Budget

Last week we were asked to present our secure Internet access services to a local prison. The Warden was in attendance and before we got started he declared, “I just want you to know we don’t have budget for whatever it is you’re selling.” Hmmmm. That’s a different mind-set than what we are used to.

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Access to Substance Abuse Programs Keeps Offenders out of Prison

Resources are widely available on-line to help prisoners with mental health and/or substance abuse problems. A publication by the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) released in May of this year estimates that 60% of prisoners battle drug or alcohol addiction. The majority of prisoners with mental health problems are dependent on drugs.

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Inmates Get Working with Job Placement Agencies

In May of this year, the jobless rate hit an 18-year low. The ability for employers to fill jobs continues to be a tremendous challenge. Job placement agencies are struggling to maintain a large and diverse pool of applicants to place.

Despite this dynamic, those still unemployed find it increasingly difficult to land a job. There are many reasons for this, chief among them being an applicant’s skills-gap; the difference between the skills employers want and those that applicants possess.

The amount of time an applicant is unemployed is another contributing factor impeding successful job placement. The longer a job seeker is out of the workforce, the wider the skills-gap is perceived to be. A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston showed applicants’ chances of finding work drop dramatically after six months of unemployment. Add a stain on an applicant’s record and you’ve completed a job placement head-wind hat-trick. Studies confirm what may be intuitively obvious: job seekers with a criminal record are much less likely to obtain employment, all other factors being equal.

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Offender Employment Largest Contributor to Successful Reentry

Offenders reenter the community lacking basic education and job-readiness skills. As a result, released prisoners are unable to obtain family-sustaining employment. Furthermore, studies show that lack of offender employment is the largest contributing factor contributing to recidivism. An unemployed ex-offender is three times as likely to return to prison as an employed ex-offender. Initiatives focusing on offender employment demonstrate the greatest success of reducing recidivism (1).

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Addressing Mental Illness in Jail

Pennsylvania has launched the first-in-nation Stepping Up Technical Assistance Center. The purpose of this Technical Assistance Center is to help counties in Pennsylvania reduce the number of people in jail with mental illness.

John Wetzel, PA Secretary of Corrections, believes that addressing the prevalence of mental illness in jails requires a “system-wide” approach.   Stepping Up is the national initiative to reducing the number of people in jail with mental illnesses.

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Prison Job Fair Matches Inmates and Employers

The Mike Durfee State Prison in South Dakota is taking the next step in helping inmates find jobs after their release.   The medium-security penitentiary held its second prison job fair introducing 325 inmates to 15 employers.

Inmates are engaged in vocation programs while incarcerated and are eager to work.  Employers at the fair have been challenged to fill open positions.  Thus they were very receptive.  The prison’s vocation program includes welding, construction technology, auto mechanics, auto body restoration, and horticulture.

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Financial Aid for Prisoners and Online Content

Prisoners in NJ who are incarcerated and want to take college courses may soon be able to get state financial aid.  Providing financial aid for prisoners could extend resources to online content needed for a traditional college degree.  The Internet is fundamental to the modern college curriculum.  SecureLearn can provide offenders with access to that content in a highly secure environment.  SecureLearn works with a prison’s services team to make available online content needed by teachers and sanctioned by the prison. 

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Technology’s Role in Prison Education

A report from the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education finds that technology in education can produce significant gains in student achievement.  Engagement and success where found to be improved especially among students most at risk.  As a result, prison education can benefit by augmenting current programs with secure technology.

Access to the Internet can improve the quality of prison education in many ways. It makes available a wealth of targeted information, knowledge and pertinent educational resources, increasing opportunities for learning beyond the prison classroom. Interactive teaching methods, supported by the Internet, enable offenders to learn at a pace tailored to their abilities.

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Security and Inmate Internet Access

Internet fraud is rampant and growing.  The FBI’s IC3 is the central repository for Internet-crime victims to report criminal Internet activity.  IC3 has received over four million complaints since its inception in 2000.  Confidence and romance fraud, along with non-payment and non-delivery scams, were among the top three crime types.  These crimes generated the highest reported financial loss.  Additional crimes include harassment and child predation. With con-men and pedophiles using the internet as a principle tool in perpetrating their crimes it’s no wonder the knee-jerk reaction to providing inmate Internet access is, “No Way!”

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