Career Development Services Within Maryland Correctional Educational Facilities

by Diana M. Bailey

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) manages and delivers correctional education services "behind the fence". Correctional Education also provides direct services in adult basic education and secondary education in the eleven correctional institutions and the pre-release system. Occupational programs focusing on job training, non-occupational programs focusing on transition skills, and advanced education opportunities are offered on a limited basis in selected institutions. Correctional libraries meet the informational, personal, and recreational needs of the residents.

Need for Educational Services for the Maryland Incarcerated Population
The need for educational services for the incarcerated population within Maryland correctional institutions is shown below:

  • There are more than 23,000 inmates in the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
  • The average reading level ranges between 6th and 8th grade.
  • Fewer than half of the inmates have a high school or GED diploma.
  • Most were unemployed at the time of arrest.
  • Only about 17% of the inmates are currently in school. On a daily basis that means about 4000 inmates are in school; yet over 12,000 have no high school diploma.
  • A survey of 1,000 inmates released in 1997-1998 shows that 43% went to school during their incarceration.
  • During FY 2006 approximately 21,756 inmates were eligible for state and federally mandated education programs; only 9,074 received services.
  • Approximately 1,300 inmates were on waiting lists in August 2006.

Statutory Requirements
Several regulatory requirements govern educational services for Maryland's incarcerated population:

  • Section 22-102 of the Education Article mandates school for inmates who do not have a high school diploma and have at least 18 months to serve.
  • Federal law requires special education services in prison for those determined to be eligible.

Inmate Educational Achievement : FY 2006
Statistics show promising results:

  • The Correctional Education Program has a GED passing rate of 59.1%.
  • 834 inmates received a GED, more than any other agency in the state.
  • 844 inmates received occupational certificates qualifying them for real jobs after release.
  • 2,440 inmates received an MSDE certificate meeting adult literacy certificates.

Staffing patterns within the Education Assistance program:

  • 179 education positions for the adult correctional education program were funded in FY 2006.
  • The legislature added 68 positions in FY 2006 for the incarcerated youth education program (at the Charles H. Hickey, Jr. School and the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center).

Return on Investment
The program's successes continue after release from prison:

  • Research shows that recidivism declined 19% for Maryland inmates who participated in education during incarceration. Academic and vocational education combined yields the biggest drop in recidivism.
  • Inmates who participate in education commit fewer crimes after release; are more likely to find work after release; behave better while incarcerated.
  • The state invests about $12,000,000 in prison education; decreased recidivism saves about $24,000,000. Thus, every dollar invested yields two dollars in return.

Career and Workforce Development Services
As Career and Workforce Development services have evolved in adult facilities, institutional design has been based on competencies reflected in the National Career Development Guidelines. The course curriculum framework, based on NCDA Guidelines, covers four major competency areas:

  1. Career and Personal Assessments
  2. Exploration - based on assessments
  3. Job Search Strategies
  4. Planning for Employment and Transition

Regardless of course length, students complete a paper career portfolio. Upon successful completion of required competencies, students earn a state certificate of completion reflecting their skills. The goal is for this portfolio to be a tool in planning the job search process in the community, by summarizing critical background information for community providers who provide additional employment services upon the students' release.

Staff Training
Staff is not permitted to use internet resources directly with inmate students. Training is primarily on software, paper assessments, supplement books, ONET resource guides, additional resources addressing barriers to employment and reentry for persons who have been incarcerated. MSDE has had the opportunity to invite national experts to deliver training directed at the unique needs of incarcerated individuals.

MSDE has served in a lead role for most of the training of staff "inside and outside the fence" to improve delivery of career development services. There are informal in service trainings, as well as standardized curriculum, assessments, documents for employment, and portfolio. MSDE staff participated in pilot development of the Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS) Training developed by the National Institution of Correction (NIC) in partnership with NCDA and several national career development experts. Staff meeting NCDA background standards may apply for dual certification of OWDS and Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) national credential.

Maryland was selected by NIC as a partner state and provided resources to offer selected current OWDS graduates a "train the trainer" certificate that yielded a Maryland-based training team that delivered that nationally certified program. The OWDS graduating class of 2006 was comprised of staff from education, corrections, one stop career centers and numerous community partners providing career development and reentry services to ex-offenders in the community. Evaluation data is available through NIC. Implementation data is being collated that will indicate staff performance outcomes reflecting staff, client and system capacity increases.

The Maryland Correctional Education Program plans to expand the career development services and student competencies to identify a crosswalk with the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) and the "worker competencies" in Equipped for the Future. This may deliver a "work readiness credential" currently being piloted by several states. The goal is to better prepare inmate students for reentry into the community and employment supporting self-sufficiency.

Incarcerated individuals present unique challenges to staff, employers and community partners involved in their career and competency development. There are tremendous barriers to employment and transition. Maryland Correctional Education has developed numerous curriculum materials and guides that support staff and students in their career development process.

Diana M.Bailey has been an educator and administrator for over 30 years with increasing responsibility. She has considerable experience working with a broad range of special populations moving through education, occupational training, employment and progressing on their career pathway. Ms. Bailey has worked with Correctional Education for over 10 years with an emphasis on program development and implementation of services providing career development, workforce development and transitional skill information for inmates returning to their community and employment. Additionally, Ms. Bailey has facilitated local, state, and national professional development activities and resources for multidisciplinary staff and agencies working with people who have been incarcerated. She holds numerous degrees and certifications related to career and workforce development such as Global Career Development Facilitator/instructor certified by National Career Development Association/CCE. She also holds several National Institute of Corrections certifications including the Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS-I). For further information or copies of curriculum materials, please contact the author at dbailey@msde.state.md.us or 410-767-0531.

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