Offender Employment

DC Public Safety Radio

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See the radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2015/03/improving-offender-employment-through-employer-focused-programming-national-institute-of-corrections/

Leonard: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, a special show for you today on offender employment with two really knowledgeable individuals. John Rakis, he is consultant to the National Institute of Corrections, he is a workforce development specialist. Also at our microphones, back at our microphones, Francina Carter, she is a correctional program specialist for the National Institute of Corrections. She’s also the program manager of Offender Workforce Development.

To John and to Francina, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Francina: Thank you.

John: Thank you.

Leonard: John, let me start with you. What is workforce development? What is workforce development within the context of employing people within the criminal justice system?

John: It’s not charity work. Workforce development in the context of the criminal justice system is about serving the needs of both, to two customers really, of the person who’s involved in the criminal justice system, the offender, and the employer. Right now, we’re shifting our focus, I think, to look at what the employer needs. We need to be examining and understanding what the employer needs are and addressing what those needs are. We’ve been very unsuccessful in the past, I think, by just pushing people out into the system without doing that.

Leonard: The whole idea is to prepare people that come out of the prison system or are on probation to give them the best preparation possible to find a job because a job is indicative of success while under supervision, correct?

John: That’s a part of it. We want to prepare people but we want to prepare people to meet the needs of the employers. We need to be focusing on what their needs are and understanding what their needs are. All too often I think we push people out and either they’re not ready for employment but even if they are ready they’re not meeting the employer’s needs, what the employer wants. That’s where the new focus is right now.

Leonard: Okay. Francina, you put together through the National Institute of Corrections a wonderful set of documents that address the employer’s need, address the offender’s needs, address the needs of everybody involved in the process, correct?

Francina: Yes.

Leonard: Okay. Tell me about those. Those are very clear-cut, very easy-to-read documents about all of the different steps that people need to take, anywhere from getting the offender prepared to go out into the work world, working in partnership with other organizations. They’re very comprehensive. Tell me about these documents.

Francina: Okay, Leonard. We really looked at developing a model. It’s a very simple four-part model. At the base of that model is using labor market information. I think too often we are preparing offenders for jobs that aren’t available in their communities. We really have to take a look at what is the labor market information telling us? What are the forecasts? What are the emerging occupations? If we’re going to be spending dollars, much needed training dollars, we need to make sure that there are viable options for employment for people who take advantage of those training programs. Everything we do, we need that base of the labor market information.

John: There are too many training programs out there where there’s a saying, “We train and pray. We train them and then we pray that we can place them.” We need to change that. That’s where labor market information is really important. There are two ways that a practitioner in the field can obtain labor market information. Much of it is on the internet. The US Department of Labor has just a wealth of information by community, by zip code, by state, any way you want to look at it. They can tell you where the growth is going to be, not only for this year but for five years down the road. That’s one of the most valuable resources that practitioners have today.

It is also important to develop relationships with labor market information specialists. Virtually every state has a labor market information specialist. Most of the one-stops that exist in our communities have people who are experts in labor market information. We urge practitioners to go out there and get on the phone, look on the internet, but meet and talk to those people. Find out in your community where the growth is going to be. Very frequently, these labor market information specialists who are based locally, they know which companies are coming into town to start a new business. They’re the ones that have the heads-up on that information. Knowing these labor market information specialists not only will help you with the long-term forecasts but it helps practitioners know what’s happening today and what’s going to be happening in the next couple of months.

Leonard: You can find the tool kits that I mentioned on the website of the National Institute of Corrections, www.nicic.gov, www.nicic.gov. One is when an employer-driven model and tool kit suggestions for employment opportunities, strategies for developing employment opportunities. It just goes on and on with the various components of the criminal justice system, preparing job-seekers for employment. The whole idea is what’s the key, what’s the secret sauce in all of this to successfully employing people who are under criminal justice supervision.

Francina: Okay. Let’s go back to the model. We mentioned labor market information as being the undergirding of this model. In the middle is the target, employment. Three components of that model are: addressing the employer needs, preparing the job-seekers, and engaging partners. All three of those are equally important.

John has already mentioned that we really need to keep the employer’s needs in focus. We look at the labor market information. We see the emerging occupations. We see where the need for employees will be. We know we need to partner with these businesses to find out what their training needs are, to make sure that the training that we’re providing for the offenders is training that is industry-recognized, industry-standard training because we know that the employers are looking at their bottom line. They need people who are going to help them to deliver the services or the products that they are producing to make their businesses grow.

When we look at the job-seekers, we need to do some assessments. We need to see what their interests are, what their skills are, and put them into appropriate training programs where they will not only be able to get entry-level jobs but they will be able to pursue additional training, additional experience so that they can advance in those jobs and that promotes job retention. We know it’s really job retention that’s going to keep people out of the prison system. It’s the job retention that’s the protective factor against recidivism.

Leonard: I do want to remind everybody that on our own website here at Court Services of Offender Supervision Agency on the front page of that website, www.csosa.gov, www.csosa.gov, we do have a section called “Hiring Offenders”, hiring people under supervision where we have radio and television shows where we’ve interviewed both individuals caught up in the criminal justice system as well as employers and asked them about their experience in terms of the employment process when people are out under supervision.

This is a multi-stage process. That’s the most important thing in all of this. John, it’s just not a matter, as you said, to train them and pray but it’s a matter of systematically gaining information about the labor market systematically, preparing individuals for employment systematically, working with partnerships and working with potential employers. It’s a multi-stage process to do this correctly, correct?

John: Exactly. Assessment is so important. It’s not just a quick assessment. All too often I think people are in a hurry to get things done and they don’t do a thorough assessment. One has to look at risks and needs. What are the strengths that a person has? What are the barriers that they face? As Francina mentioned, what are their interests? What are their values? You don’t want to place a person in a job where they have no interest in doing the work for the long-term. You want to give them a career ladder so you want to match them to a job that meets their interests and their values. You want to determine how well they can work as a team. How flexible are they? How adaptable are they? Do they have the ability to accept criticism? These are all things that need to go into an assessment before you even think about sending somebody out to meet with an employer.

Do the assessment, deal with every barrier that exists. I frequently tell people that it’s the barrier that you don’t address, the one that you miss, the one that you just “We’ll deal with it later”, that’s the one that’s going to cause someone to either not get a job or to lose a job in a few months. It’s so important to identify all of those barriers, address the barriers, get that person ready, identify what their interests are, and then begin to make the match.

Leonard: I’m sorry, go ahead.

John: I think the same thing holds true when one meets with employers. I’ll let you ask your question. I know you want to follow up.

Leonard: I was talking to our employment people before the radio program. They were telling me that we have comprehensive services here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in terms of both education and in terms of employment. It’s a multi-stage, very comprehensive process. Our shtick, if you will, our main approach to communicating this message is that we have people who are job-ready now. We don’t have risks to public safety. We have people who are job-ready now who need to find work. We’re encouraging employers to work with us.

They also said in many cases you have to stabilize them first before they get involved in these services. If there are mental health or substance abuse issues or other issues, anger management, you have to go through the process of fixing those issues first before getting them involved in the job preparation part of it or the education part of it. Are they right or wrong?

John: No, they’re 100% right. People have to be ready for work although the first message that I would give employers is not that we have people that are ready to work for you. The first thing that you want to actually do is listen to the employer. Find out what their needs are. All too often I think what happens is that we get people ready for work and they are ready for work, they are job-ready. Then we run out and we tell employers we have job-ready people for you. That’s not the right approach.

The right approach is listen to what the employer has to say. I’ll give you an analogy. Imagine if you walked into a car dealership and you were going to buy a sedan. A car salesman ran up to you and said, “Do I have a van for you. It’s a great van. It’s the best-selling van that we have. You’ve got to buy it.” You’d walk right out of the store because you’re not there to buy a van. You’re there to buy a sedan. He didn’t ask you what you wanted.

It’s the same thing with employers. One has to asses what their needs are, know the business really well before you make that referral. That’s where I think this tool kit … There’s a lot of emphasis in the tool kit on that, listening to what the employer has to say, understanding that employer when you go out and meet with an employer for the first time. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. You have to listen first, not sell. What are your needs? What are your hiring challenges at this point? Find out what those are and then you can start making matches.

Leonard: The question that I [crosstalk 00:11:50]. The question, either one of you, is because of the comprehensive nature of the documents that I have made reference to from the National Institute of Corrections, the multi-stage process, are probation agencies throughout the country prepared for that systematic approach to finding employment for people on supervision? Do they have the resources? We have them here at Court Services but we’re a federally funded agency. We have more resources than most. Is this level of complexity … Do most probation agencies, do they have the resources and the personnel to give this level of complexity justice?

Francina: You know Len, the most important thing is people need to look at partnerships. None of us can do all of this work by ourselves. I think most agencies look within themselves to see what their capacity is and how they can do this work. That’s certainly a good place to start but then they need to look at other agencies within their community, not just government agencies but also community-based agencies, your nonprofits and your faith-based organizations. There should be an engagement of partners in this work. Partner with the workforce investment board in your area. Partner with the Chamber of Commerce. Partner with nonprofits that do much of this work. Partner with other criminal justice agencies, even educational institutions. Look at who’s offering apprenticeships and if they have apprenticeships, who offers the education component of those apprenticeships. Each agency does not have to do all of this alone. As a matter of fact, some of the best programs are those that have these multi-agency partnerships as well as a public/private partnership, so public agencies as well as private and nonprofit agencies.

Leonard: John, I’m assuming that you would agree that this is not just a job for parole and probation, it’s just not a job for community corrections, it’s a job for the entire community and it has to be approached through a partnership basis.

John: It is. One of the things that I always recommend that agencies do is map their stakeholders. Who would be interested in this? That would include employers. It would include the Chamber of Commerce. It would include the workforce investment board. Map out your stakeholders, everyone that would be concerned or interested in this work, and then reach out to them. Then develop partnerships along those lines.

Leonard: We’re just about halfway through the program. I want to reintroduce our guests. John Rakis, he is a consultant with the National Institute of Corrections. He is a workforce development specialist. We also have in our studios Francina Carter. She is a correctional program specialist and a program manager. She is program manager for the Offender Workforce Development Program of the National Institute of Corrections, www.nicic.gov., www.nicic.gov, for these amazingly good documents in terms of laying out this whole process.

Going back to either one of you, the real skill here from what I’m hearing from both of you, the real skill in all of this is having somebody in parole and probation who has those organizational skills, who has those public outreach skills, the public relations skills to pull together a rather large coalition and bring them all together and say, “We have a common problem. I can’t do this. We can’t do this on our own. Catholic charities and the local construction company and the workforce development people and everybody else involved in the process, you need to help me. We need to sit down and figure out together how we’re going to do the very best job possible to get people under supervision employed.” That’s a real skill on the part of somebody in parole and probation, is it not?

Francina: It is. It can often start as a steering committee, putting together a steering committee. John talked about mapping stakeholders, inviting those people to the table. It may just start with something pretty informal like a breakfast or a luncheon, kind of a brown-bag luncheon to talk about what the issues are, how they need to be addressed, and who needs to be at the table. A lot of jurisdictions have such steering committees and they meet on a regular basis.

Another way to start is with training. Have an opportunity for a half-day training where you bring people into the room. Oftentimes they have these same needs and they are struggling with some of these same issues. Having a training program where you really look at what are the skills needed, the competencies needed by the service providers to be able to do this work. NIC offers training programs such as re-entry employment specialists and bringing folks together in the room to share some of these common issues but also some of the common solutions to the issues. There are some ways to get some folks up to speed on how to do this in a community.

Leonard: One of the things that we’ve done here at Court Services is to get the employers themselves to sit here before these very microphones and to go into television studios and to explain the process, why they’ve hired people under supervision and the fact that it’s worked for them, to hear it directly from them. That testimony needs to come from the employers as well as the people in community corrections, right?

Francina: Absolutely.

John: One of the things that we recommend is that any program that serves the employment needs of justice-involved individuals should have an employer advisory committee. That committee should meet on a regular basis and then it should be taken … Get employers involved in that way. Many will contribute. They will let you know if you’re doing the right thing or if you’re doing something that doesn’t work for them.

Once you’ve engaged them in that activity, over time engage them as champions for your work. Get them to join you on radio shows like we’re doing today and to speak to the public about their involvement with the program and what they’re doing to make it work and how well it’s worked for them. Videotape them, if you can, and put them on your agency’s webpage, talking about their involvement with the program. Employers like to see other employers talk about how things work.

Have a page. I believe every probation agency should have a page. Every program that works with justice-involved individuals in terms of meeting their employment needs, should have a webpage dedicated to employers which sells the benefits to employers that your program has to offer. That’s where a testimonial would work really well. Use a brief video. It’s not difficult to do. Upload it to YouTube and link it to the website, the employer talking about his experience with the program.

Leonard: Having a really strong social media component to this campaign would really help.

John: Not only will it help, I think it’s mandatory at this point in time. As more and more companies get involved with social media, more and more people are getting involved with social media, it’s the way to go. It’s inexpensive. You can reach a number of different people really very, very quickly.

Most recruiters nowadays, 90% of all recruiters are using LinkedIn to identify candidates for jobs. If you’re working to get somebody a long-term career opportunity, they need to have a LinkedIn profile, perhaps not for an entry-level job but for the future, for the jobs that really pay well, pay a sustainable wage, a client must have a LinkedIn profile if he or she is going to be found by a recruiter.

A page that’s dedicated to employers, we want to get the message to employers that we have a service to provide. We have benefits to provide. Here are the candidates that we have. One of the ways you advertise that, one of the ways you market that is through the web and having a page that employers can find. I’m urging programs, if you have literature, brochures describing the services that you have to offer to employers, use QR codes. You know what QR codes are, those little square boxes that you hold your smartphone to and then it automatically connects you to the webpage. I think every brochure that’s out there marketing programs like this to employers needs to have a QR code. The QR code should take them immediately to the webpage which describes the benefits that companies, probation, parole agencies have to offer. This way, they can quickly find out what services are available, what benefits are available, and how they can connect.

Leonard: Go ahead, please.

John: We basically just have to … Time is money for employers. We really need to, if we’re going to reach out to them, we have to be efficient in the way that we do it. If we’re going to give them information, they have to obtain it as quickly as possible.

Leonard: I’ve always been under the impression or the belief that what we should also do is to put up videos of the individual offenders themselves. I think they would be in the best position to describe their own skills and their own attributes. I’ve done a lot of interviews, again both on television and radio. We have stigmas. We have stereotypes of people who are under criminal justice supervision. Those stereotypes seem to melt and seem to disappear when somebody sees the individual in a coat and tie talking about the fact that he does have a good work history and talking about his skills, talking about who he is and what he is. I think that’s something that we in the criminal justice system should be doing, not only employers but the individual people under supervision themselves.

Francina: Absolutely. I think we need to show our success stories. We need to see people who have been the product, the beneficiaries of some of these training programs who have successfully entered the world of work, who are retaining employment, who are advancing on their jobs. Seeing those success stories, I think it speaks volumes. I think, like you said, it dispels some of the myths, some of the stereotypes about people who have a criminal record. They can serve as role models for other individuals who are just starting their path and just starting to get into the world of work. It’s almost, “If I see you … If you can do it, I can do it.” I think it’s very important to highlight our participants who have been successful.

Leonard: I’ve also talked, once again, to the people who are job developers here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. They tell me that the bias against people caught up in the criminal justice system is strong. The fact that they’ve had very employable individuals, people who there’s no reason, absolutely no reason for that person not to be employed. The person hasn’t had a drug-positive in a long time. The person hasn’t had any problems under supervision. The person has real skills from the past. We’ve even had people with college degrees under our supervision and yet the barrier to employment in terms of the stereotype of people who are caught up in the criminal justice system, they say it’s one of the most difficult things that they have to deal with. Either one of you want to comment on that?

John: It’s a challenge. It always will be a challenge. It has been a challenge. It’s improving, I think. What’s important is developing those relationships with employers. It takes time, understanding what their needs are, meeting their needs. Over time, you will build trust. That’s what it takes to work in this field. Nothing happens overnight. As I said, you approach the employer, you make a good impression the first time by listening to what they have to say, hearing what their needs are, meeting those needs. Over time, then people trust you. When people trust you, they’ll accept referrals. It’s all about trust but trust takes time to build. There’s no shortcuts to this.

Leonard: Go ahead, John.

John: You can prepare people well, obviously identifying all the barriers, doing the proper assessment, making sure that they’re ready for employment. One of the things that I always like to recommend, encourage the person coming out of prison to do some volunteer work, put that on their resume. Even if it’s only for a few hours a week, it’s something that shows the employer that they’re keeping busy while they’re searching for employment and that they’re contributing back to society. They’re doing something that’s positive. It always reflects well. It doesn’t matter who that person is. That goes for people that even aren’t ex-offenders that are looking for work above the age of fifty-five. Put something on your resume that shows that you’ve been active and that you’re contributing to your community. That will reflect well and that increases the odds that you will be called in for an interview.

Leonard: In terms of developing the relationship with the employers, again, I talked to our six workforce development people, our job developers, within Washington DC it’s almost impossible to reach out to every employer in Washington DC. In some cases, you may find “X” company is receptive in terms of that company’s executive but the branch offices may not be. Forming that bond, forming that relationship with all employers when you’ve got six people is almost impossible. Are we not talking about something larger in terms of engaging them, John? We were talking a little while ago about social media, talking about doing this systematically, it’s really hard to one-by-one-by-one to every employer within the metropolitan area to reach out to them personally.

Francina: I think a couple-

John: You could do things like, for example in St. Louis, the federal probation office developed a public service announcement video that was aired on TV. It actually featured the mayor of St. Louis and four probationers, federal probationers, who spoke to the camera about their success. That was Mayor Francis Slay. I believe the video is still out there on the internet, a simple thing that had ramifications city-wide.

Leonard: That’s a great idea. Francina?

Francina: A couple of things come to mind. One is the Ban the Box Initiative that is really taking hold in a lot of jurisdictions. What Ban the Box means is that a lot of cities and some jurisdictions are taking off that question about have you ever been convicted of a felony from the application. It doesn’t mean that the question can’t be asked later. All offenders should be rehearsed and prepared to be able to respond very directly to that question. At the same time, it moves it further along in the process, in the hiring process, so they get their foot in the door. They get to show who they are. They get to talk about their skills and their abilities and what they bring to the table.

The other important thing, I think, is a good job match, to make sure that the kinds of employment opportunities that are out there fit not just the individual’s interests and skills but also the criminal record so that there’s nothing that would prohibit them through any kind of statutory requirements or licensure requirements that would prohibit them from seeking that kind of employment, making sure that there’s a good job match in the kind of work that the candidates are going for.

Leonard: Final minutes of the program. Go ahead.

Francina: Those are just a couple of things that help a little bit to reduce that barrier. We talked about the success stories, even employers and their testimonials, breakfast, an awards breakfast for employers who have been successful in hiring and retaining individuals who have criminal record and telling their stories. All of these are ways that we start to mitigate that big barrier of having a criminal record.

Leonard: Okay. We also have tax credits and the bonding program, correct?

Francina: Absolutely.

Leonard: There are direct incentives for employers. Okay, final minute of the program. Bottom line behind all of this is that this is not an academic discussion, this is a public safety issue. This is a matter of putting people who are caught up in the criminal justice system into jobs, becoming taxpayers, not tax burdens, supporting their kids. Much rests upon this, correct?

Francina: Absolutely. We know that employment actually stabilizes people. If a person is in the community and he has employment or she has employment, they’re able to take care of their families. They’re able to pay their fines. They’re able to pay their taxes. They’re able to find housing. For any of us, employment really is a stabilizing factor in our lives so we are talking about public safety when we’re talking about employment.

Leonard: Our research shows that they do much better under supervision if they are employed. John, do you have any final wrap-up words, thirty seconds worth?

John: It’s not only the offenders that are being assisted but it’s their families. Many, as you know, a high percentage of the people coming out of prison that are on probation and parole have family members. If we can help them get back to work, their families will do better as well.

Leonard: It’s a fascinating conversation. Ladies and gentlemen, by our microphones today, via Skype, John Rakis. He is a consultant through the National Institute of Corrections. He’s a workforce development expert. Also, we had Francina Carter, correctional program specialist, program manager of the Offender Workforce Development. The documents that we mentioned today are available at www.nicic.gov, www.nicic.gov. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms. We want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

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Transforming Offender Employment-National Institute of Corrections-DC Public Safety

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is http://media.csosa.gov.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2013/07/transforming-offender-employment-national-institute-of-corrections-dc-public-safety/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, today we’re going to be talking about Transforming Offender Employment – what’s new, what’s interesting in terms of finding individuals under community supervision jobs, what correctional systems throughout the country are doing to prepare individuals from coming out of the prison system into the community and lowering the recidivism rate.  Back at our microphones today is P. Elizabeth Taylor, Pat is a Correctional Program Specialist, Community Services Division, National Institute of Corrections – www.nicic.gov. www.nicic.gov. Pat, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Thank you, Len. Good to be back.

Len Sipes: We’ve done a television show on this, and it’s very popular. We’ve had lots of different states who are using the television show. It’s a really big topic, making sure that individuals in the prison system, that prison inmates are trained occupationally before they come out of the prison system, and that we’re doing the right things when we get them on community supervision. That’s the heart and soul of this topic, correct?

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Exactly, doing the right things for the right reasons.

Len Sipes: Okay. We know that this is a problem, a big problem in terms of recidivism. We know that generally speaking from national data – which is getting old now, and the Department of Justice is saying that they’re going to be updating it fairly soon – but we’re talking about two-thirds re-arrested, and we’re talking about 50% going back to prison. Those are the current national statistics, and I find looking at state statistics that it’s not all that unusual.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Exactly.

Len Sipes: A lot of the people that I talk to tell me that unemployment is a principle driver of people going back to the prison system. Is that true?

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: It’s unemployment and underemployment, and I’m going to say it’s not just the process of being unemployed or underemployed but it’s the inability of the population, the justice-involved adult, to address those issues that resulted in them being attached to the criminal justice system in the first place.

Len Sipes: Now the National Institute of Corrections has a large program on DVDs, a large program that is accessible, available to people, and training which is available to people all throughout the country on this topic.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Exactly, and what I like to let people know, you know, the misnomer is that the training is for free. No. Your tax dollars have already paid for the training so it’s to your advantage to take advantage of it, and our call is specific to workforce development, offender workforce development, the employment series. – And when you think about it, it’s a university model, so what does that mean? Well, it means that we start pretty much at the beginning. What are some of the best practices associated that we know works well in working with the unemployed or underemployed offender or justice involved individual getting attached to the workforce?  And if can just say right here, in terms of employment or workforce development, we’ve changed, we’ve broadened the definition, if you will. Traditionally, employment is – okay, I’m paid; I’m receiving a paid salary. If you redefine it in that whole transformational process, we’re talking about gainful attachment to the workforce, which can be via paid employment, of course. It could be a structured training program. It could be an academic pursuit. It could be by way of volunteerism. So we’re focusing on helping this population have some type of attachment to the workforce.

Len Sipes: Well, we had a program a couple of days ago here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency where we invited unions in, and the gentleman told a very passionate story about how he was caught up in the criminal justice system years ago, and I think he said he spent the majority of his teenage days incarcerated. He went to a presentation, the same presentation, a similar presentation that he gave yesterday, that how he became a cement-layer, and how that started him off on a career – good pay, good fringe benefits, and how he rose in the ranks of the union and union politics, and how he has developed into a union official today, but he started off as a former offender.   Somebody gave him an offer that he felt that he could not refuse. It was dirty, long, hot work, but the unions, the various unions basically said to the individuals at the seminar, “We don’t care what your criminal background is. We don’t care.” That’s one of the very few professions I’m aware of where they say that “we don’t care.” If you are willing to come in and work hard, you can rise up through the ranks and become a skilled carpenter, a cement layer, a steel worker all the different – I mean, so that’s still possible today.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: It is, and there’s this process of business necessity, and so if there is a close connection between an individual’s conviction and the known duties and responsibilities of the said position they’re applying for, they may not qualify for it. But aside from that, it is a red carpet, if you will, for possibilities, but to get to that possibility, you have to be evaluated and/or assessed because you just don’t want to go for a position because you know it’s available. Are you suited for it? Are the duties and responsibilities something that you can life with? And do you have enough information about the process that you’re willing to take it step-by-step because what you mentioned in your story is that this individual started at the beginning.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Now quite frankly, most people, they want to start at the top. They are that impulsive, “I want it yesterday” type of person, and so they have to learn the benefit of taking it, you know, we say one day at a time but taking it one step at a time.

Len Sipes: Sure. Well, the prison systems throughout the country, are they doing a better job of preparing individuals to go out and find work? – Because that has been a big problem in this country. You know years ago, I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety so there were three correctional systems, and one of the things that when re-entry finally came into vogue, and re-entry was part of the issue that was put on the table, and reduction of recidivism, our folks basically said, “Look, we’re funded to run constitutional institutions, and yes, we do have some vocational training, we do have educational training, we do have this, we do have that, but we don’t have very much of it, and it certainly doesn’t touch all the individuals caught up in the prison system.”  And yet suddenly, prison systems were now given the responsibility of training people and lowering the rate of recidivism. I still get the sense that states throughout the country are struggling with that capacity issue.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: It is improving. I will admit that if you look at the history of offender workforce development specific to corrections, that you had people working in rock quarries breaking bricks, you had them in sewing houses, you had them doing menial-type work where there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for advancement. Well, we have this organization, this process connected to correctional industries, and it provides the real-life work experience for people that are incarcerated. So depending upon where the state is, you have various types of career options, training options, again, the ability to learn that position from the ground-up, and quite frankly as the nation is moving forward, there are a lot of correctional industries that are in alignment with some of the trades’ industry programs.

Len Sipes: Well in Maryland, I was amazed because we had a printing press operation, which was huge. It did all the printing for the state of Maryland, and it was a female-owned company who hired every person who got out of prison because her equipment was exactly our equipment. She didn’t have to do any training at all. These were individuals who had been using this equipment, cleaning the equipment, repairing the equipment, maintaining the equipment for ten years, so they’re in a perfect position to seamlessly move over and work for this individual.  Now it’s funny because she would tell me stories as if the people who were there, they were wonderful workers, but they were saying, “Ma’am, can I go to the bathroom,” and she would say, “Sam, you can go to the bathroom any time you want. You don’t have to ask my permission.” Part of the institutionalization process carries over into the work process. So there are many great opportunities within the prison system. I just don’t get the sense – and other people have said this, not just me – but there’s just not enough of them.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: We’re sometimes the best-kept secret, and I think that there are organizations – you have the National Correctional Industries Organization, they are industry programming in each of the 50 states, so I would encourage people to Google NCIA and find out what’s going on in their state. Now, I’m not suggesting that it’s a perfect process. It is not. We are still, as an industry program, we’re still on our learning curve, but it’s much better than it was, and you have the situation where an individual can say, “You know, I have skills and abilities now, and professional expertise,” and like you say, that conviction no longer becomes a big – it’s no longer an issue. That employer sees what the employee can do, not what they did.

Len Sipes: True, but states are beginning to recognize their role in lowering recidivism.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Exactly.

Len Sipes: States are beginning to recognize that it’s an economic issue, it is a taxpayer issue, it’s a matter of lessening the burden on taxpayers to provide individuals caught up in the criminal justice system, incarcerated, in prisons – it’s in everybody’s best interest to provide them with vocational training.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: And state to state, they need to determine how they define recidivism. Once they come up with that definition, then the goal is to support that person’s self-sufficiency. Now I will say that a job or a connection to the workforce will not necessarily keep you out of the system, but when done correctly, these job training programs, these industry programs identify those issues. – And, you know, the bigger word is the criminogenic risk. Well, it’s a lot to say, well, what does that really mean? Well, it means that those thought processes, those —

Len Sipes: Well, the bottom line behind what NIC is trying to do is to do it right.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Exactly.

Len Sipes: That’s the thing that I get from all of your materials and from doing the television show with you. You’re talking about assessing the individual, using research, using data, being sure that the best person is put in the best possible job, so it’s a matter of training those people. When we talk about training in this case, we’re not talking about necessarily training inmates in prison. We’re talking about training staff to assess that individual, to find out who’s the best fit for the best job, and to use cognitive skill behavioral training, which is basically teaching them fundamental issues of right and wrong, how to respond on the job, how to act on the job, what’s expected from you on the job – that all of this needs to be systematic. It needs to be scientific. It needs to be evidence-based.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Right, right, and when you look at it, and that’s the transformational piece. So with the transformative workforce development system, you’re looking at the relationship between that practitioner and the offender, or the court or justice-involved individual. So on the practitioner’s side, what type of communication skills, how am I relating to this individual? Do I see the possibility that they can change?  Will I willingly develop a relationship with them, and then guide them through a process where they can let’s say challenge – not attack – but challenge their core belief, because the reality is if you are incarcerated and you are unemployed, and you say, “You know, I don’t like this,” but you say, “but you know, it’s all right for me to be in jail,” well, there is some type of dissonance right there, and so with proper training as a practitioner, you get the skills to be able to guide that person through to address those issues, those self-perceptions, the impulsivity, the inability to respond to a work-with-authority figures. You address the issues of, you know, “My friends aren’t working but that’s all right for me. I’ll hang out with them.”  So if you can challenge and work with that person, then they can go from a point of unemployed – and I keep saying underemployment – to a point of self-sufficiency.

Len Sipes: Because it strikes me that you can train a person to be a carpenter, you can train them to be a plumber, you can train them to be a bricklayer, you can train them to be a printer, but that doesn’t necessarily deal with the issue of an unreasonable boss saying unreasonable things, making possibly unreasonable expectations. All of us go through that. Everybody listening to this program, we all go through all of that sort of stuff but we don’t blow up.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Exactly. Exactly.

Len Sipes: And we don’t strike back verbally, and we don’t stomp off the job. – And so many of our individuals caught up in the criminal system, they need to be taught that, and so that’s what you’re talking about, right?

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: We’re talking about problem-solving skills. We’re talking about decision-making skills. So like you say, the reality is, as an employee, I will have someone that will tell me, “You need to do A and B,” okay? Well, let’s just say that my work ethic or lack thereof tells me, “I get to do what I want to do.” That type of thinking helps me become unemployed. It supports my detachment from the workforce. So if you can work with me as the practitioner to help me understand the relationship between my values, my beliefs, and how they relate to my behavior.

Len Sipes: And that all part of this larger from the National Institute of Corrections of training staff to work with the offenders in terms of their cognitive development. It’s just not a matter of teaching bricklaying. It is a matter of helping that person cope with the realities of the day-to-day work world.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Touching that emotional IQ.

Len Sipes: And that is just as important as giving them hard skills and give them training.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: You know, I’ll tell you that it’s more important. I mean, we can find, the employer, he can find people that can do the job, okay, but do they have the type of attitude, temperament that will help them stay connected.

Len Sipes: I’m sorry, we’re more than halfway through the program. P. Elizabeth Taylor is our guest today, Correctional Program Specialist, Community Services Division, with the National Institute of Corrections – www.nicic.gov. I can’t do that without screwing that up. www.nicic.gov – part of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Department of Justice.  Pat, so the bottom line in all of this is that we, you know, we keep thinking about that the focus is on the individual caught up in the criminal justice system, the offender. That’s where all the focus is. The focus needs to be on us as criminal justice practitioners to properly asses that person, get that person into the right job, something he or she is going to stock with throughout the years, and give him or her the skills to survive on that job and thrive on that job. That’s the package that you’re talking about.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: That’s the package, and the other part of it is that we need to, when you think about our current situation in these United States – cut-backs, programs are just being abolished, we have less funds now – so how can we do more with less?

Len Sipes: The best possible job with the resources that we have.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Exactly, and so with that understanding, we have the training that we provide, and part of the training is to help the practitioner to know, to get the best out of your current resources, identify those people that are highest at risk, however do you define recidivism, to recidivate. Now once you have that determination, well then let’s go ahead and do a reassessment and re-evaluation, and that’s what our training provides.  So we’ve gone from best and promising practices, at the next level we have theory-based career-assistance. So how do you help that individual, now that I’ve identified that they’re at risk for recidivism, and I’ve identified their needs and their barriers, so how can I assist them in that process for their attachment to the workforce? Well, it’s not just about placing them, though, and so with the transformational workforce development, we know that the focus is not on the face-em-and-place-em, it’s on the retention. – And so combining that hand-in-glove, motivational interviewing techniques with cognitive behavioral principles supports long-term attachment to the workforce, and if it’s not the job per se that keeps a person out of the criminal justice system, it’s the process of getting that job, because in that process you’re addressing those barriers and those issues, those isms if you will, that make it easy for the offender to be caught up into the system.

Len Sipes: Motivational technique, I mean, there we’re talking about making sure that the person is finding out what it is that makes that person tick, and motivating that person to stick with it, to stay the course, finding out as much as you can about that individual and using motivational tools to keep that person engaged and keep that person enthused with the cognitive behavioral therapy skills, which is basically what is an appropriate response, how do you handle stress. So it’s a combination of all of those skills.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Exactly, it’s hand-in-glove, yes.

Len Sipes: So it starts in the prison system and it’s handed off to parole and probation agents, what we call community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia. They have to have those skills to move that person from prison to community supervision to a job, and to do it successfully.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: So what you’re saying is that you need that collaboration, and what we’re referring to now is that continuum of care. So from the prison system or jail system to the community, everyone that would touch the life of that offender or justice-involved individual needs to be aware of what works. Based on research, we know that motivational interviewing techniques, where you’re developing a positive relationship of guidance, supports the offender. We know by the research that any cognitive-based programming, where you’re able to help the offender make that connection between their values and beliefs and their behaviors, actions or reactions, is proven effective. We need to make sure, though, that everyone, all of our stakeholders within that continuum of care, have similar training to support case management and that case planning.

Len Sipes: And that’s what the National Institute of Corrections is trying to do.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Exactly.

Len Sipes: Now take this training today, because I saw – and I spent a lot of time when we did the television show, looking for video footage that best illustrates what it is that you do there at NIC – is this a course where they go on campus and take the course, or is this a course where they can view the video tapes separately?

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Well at the first level, the offender employment specialist training – or building bridges – that is a multi-disk set where you can self-train, if you will. I encourage people, though, to make sure that they identify good partners to bring to the table to walk through that process.  Now the next level is the offender workforce development specialist training, which is about 180 hours. It is a train-through-partnership, so once an application is made for the training, then we will go to your jurisdiction and we will facilitate the training there, whatever state or situation where it’s located.  Now at the next level, the offender employment retention specialist training, that’s facilitated or people are trained at our training academy in Aurora, Colorado. So that’s a 40-hour blended training. You come to our site. There is pre-training work. There is training definitely while we’re there, but then that was not enough because now we’re talking about new skills. We’re developing new skills, new ways of working with people. So once the 40-trianing session, and we go back to our respective states, and we’re all really good about these new tools in our toolbox, through the OWDS training, if I can call it that, we provide coaching. We want our training to be dynamic, and training is the on-going process, and I think when people develop – I’ll mention one, is a skill of reflection. If I’m not really using it, if I’m not giving back what you’re saying and that’s not a regular part of my daily work, I’ll lose the skill.  So we have quarterly coaching sessions that we’re providing, and I think at this point there may be 99 people since the pilot that have completed the offender employment retention specialist training that is sponsored by the National Institute of Corrections.

Len Sipes: Now will these individuals go out and train everybody else in their agency because we have hundreds of people here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, I mean those who are directly supervising people on supervision. They’re not all going to be able to take that level of training.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Right, right, and through the partnership, through the OWDS, it is a train-a-trainer type process, so through the partnership, the expectation is that once that core training group is identified, then they will assume responsibility for training others. I will say with the retention training and as you are kind of alluding to, there are a lot of people out there that may not be part of the OWDS knowledge block process, so what then? Well, we’re developing a standalone with best practices in retention training that a person can access similar to the OES. It’ll be a multi-disk set that you can facilitate at your particular site.  Now NIC, the National Institute of Corrections, will provide a technical support to make sure that the training goes as it should but it’s an ongoing process for us to make sure that we’re meeting the training needs of those individuals that are part of Corrections proper, but then also they’re stakeholders.

Len Sipes: It’s a very comprehensive program.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Yes.

Len Sipes: I mean, what you’re talking about is a very comprehensive program that eventually, where we train trainers, and you also provide support material where they can carry that information back to their own agencies because it strikes me as this, is that if you have an individual parole and probation agent anywhere in the country and he’s trying to get that individual interested in a job, he’s trying to find out who that individual is, what they’re interested in, where they would like to go, what they would like to do, develop motivational interviewing, get that person involved in some sort of job training activity or a job.  I mean, again, these apprenticeship programs through the unions are just extraordinary, especially considering they don’t care about the person’s criminal history. So it’s a wonderful opportunity to do that but you’ve got to do it right to get the right person into the right job if that person’s going to have any chance of holding on to that job any length of time.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: And it’s not so much that any employer may not – it’s not that they don’t care about the conviction, they want to be aware of it.

Len Sipes: Oh, of course.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: And again, and then business necessity would let you know how much weight that particular conviction carries.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Now through the cognitive behavioral process, we can train or teach court and justice-involved individual how to talk about their conviction in such a way where they are assuming ownership for the reality of the conviction but they’re making that segue right to those skills and abilities that make them marketable.

Len Sipes: That’s such a great idea. I mean, of all the fears that individuals have coming out of the prison system, the biggest fear is how to deal with that question. What’s your crime? What’s your time? Where did you do time? Who are you? Are you a menace? Are you going to be a good worker or are you going to cause any problems? I mean, and how to deal with those question, and how to deal with them comfortably and how to deal with them successfully become a key ingredient as to whether or not they’re going to be successful.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Through cognitive behavioral-based programming, the individual is able to understand and acknowledge the fact that the charge represents behavior is what they did, it’s not necessarily who they are, and through that restructuring they’re developing a new sense of who I am. – And part of that who I am is a taxpaying citizen that’s actively involved in my community —

Len Sipes: Takes care of my kids.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: — assumes responsibility, exactly.

Len Sipes: Responsible taxpayer.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Exactly, yes.

Len Sipes: And that’s what people want to hear, taxpayer not a tax burden.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: That’s the bottom line, yes. Exactly right.

Len Sipes: Absolutely. Absolutely. And so if we did this, if we had this sort of a program, let’s just say that 50% of offenders caught up in prison systems had some sense of meaningful job development training, cognitive behavioral training if they went through all of this, and if they came out and they were met by parole and probation agents who understood these skills, knew these skills, knew how to apply these skills – would it make a substantial impact? Would there be a substantial impact on recidivism, on future criminal behavior, and consequently would that save taxpayers an awful lot of money?

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: That is the argument that we’re making. We’re starting now to do the research. Through the employment retention training, we develop an ERI, and Employment Retention Inventory, and the research that’s going to start next fiscal year is looking at that whole workforce development process. If you provide career assistance, if you provide cognitive behavioral-based programming, what will the impact be?  And so it requires that all of our partners – and our partner is anyone that’s gone through our training, any training provided by the National Institute of Corrections – at that point, that partnership is developed. So we’re looking for our partners to help us capture the data, that let’s just say for instance that if our program that’s being offered is not necessarily hitting all the right buttons, then we can modify that because the goal is really to make that impact.

Len Sipes: But we only have about a minute left. One of the things I did want to point out is the fact that there already is good data, some of the most encouraging data that I’ve seen in terms of offender re-entry of individuals being trained in correctional systems, a multi-state study including the state of Maryland where I was at, and their rate of recidivism was considerably lower than the comparison group. So there I data already out there that says “Job training programs in prison systems do work.”

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Right – when structured properly.

Len Sipes: When structured properly.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: Yes.

Len Sipes: And if you have the support system on the outside.

Pat Elizabeth Taylor: And the collaborative relationships from the – the only way I can say it is from the handcuff key to the door key. We’re looking at those relationships with the stakeholders involved.

Len Sipes: Pat, you’ve got the final word. P. Elizabeth Taylor, Correctional Program Specialist, Community Services Division, National Institute of Corrections. Let me see if I can do this right this time. www.nicic.gov. www.nicic.gov.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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