Jobs To Prevent Ex-Cons From Falling Back Into Crime
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QUANTICO, Md. - A new program in Salisbury hopes to prevent ex-cons from falling back into crime by providing them with employment opportunities.

Over one year, 30 inmates at the Poplar Hill Pre-Release facility in Quantico, MD will be taught and certified on installing drywall and painting through the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce. Those trades pay about 15 dollars an hour and the city says there is a demand for certified professionals.

"Most people would be a little concerned about it (hiring ex-convicts)," admits Bradley Bellacicco, Executive Director of the Salisbury Area COC, "but given a choice between someone with a certification and the skills needed, or not...I think they'll take the graduates of our program."

Students will also work with Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake on work ethics, conflict resolution, as well as stress and anger management. "We're working hard within the business community," asserts Phyllis Hardy, Program Manager of Career Development Center with Goodwill, "to get them to see that these citizens can be productive and can give back."

The city had to re-allocate about 35 thousand dollars of their Safe Streets grant money to make this project possible, and the state approved the move. They're hoping the success of this pilot program will mean more grant money could be on the way to sustain the program.

"We believe it will go a long way in crime prevention and reducing crime out there on the streets," Salisbury Police Chief Barbara Duncan told reporters. "we come in contact with former prisoners on a daily basis, so this makes a lot of sense for us."

Kathleen Green, Warden of the Poplar Hill Pre-Release facility agrees with Duncan, "So they don't become repeat offenders. That's a win-win for all of us. They become tax paying, law abiding citizens. We have less inmates in our correctional facilities."

Once released, the ex-cons in the program will be tracked by case management and the Maryland New Hire Registry.

The follow are details about the program, from the State of Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation:

1. Interested participants (Poplar Hill Pre-Release inmates) will successfully complete a thirty (30) hour Employment Readiness course offered by the Dept. of Labor, Licensing & Regulation (DLLR) as part of the Workforce Development and Adult Learning, Correctional Education program. The course includes, but is not limited to, topics such as goal setting, skills identification, job-search strategies, interview tips, federal bonding, and community resources. A DLLR certificate of completion will be awarded to students at the end of the course.

2. Upon completion of the Employment Readiness course, students will be screened for interest in the Pre-Apprenticeship Program and a list of applicants will be formulated. *Gang influence will be a part of the screening criteria. Identified gang members will not be eligible for the first twelve (12) months of the program. After the program has been in session for twelve (12) months, gang members will have the opportunity to be considered for the program. Criteria for consideration includes; 1) no gang activity for the past twelve (12) months; and 2) initiation of gang renunciation paperwork has been established.

3. Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) Case Managers will assess and screen applicants for clearance into the program. Such screening measures include, but are not limited to, amount of time before release, eligibility for community leave, location of home plan with Salisbury then Lower Eastern Shore residents receiving first priority, and if they have a GED or high school diploma. *A GED or high school diploma is not mandatory, but in order to participate in the program a ninth (9th ) grade Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) score must be achieved for non-diploma participants. Ideal applicants will have no more than one year left of their sentence.

4. The ten (10) students selected (each class) will meet with representatives (panel) from each of the agencies involved with the program for an Orientation. During this meeting, students will be given an overview of expectations.

5. Once occupational classes begin, the students will be transported by DPSCS to the Salisbury, MD training facility operated by the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation. DPSCS will provide all transportation and meals, as needed, for students.

6. The Maryland Higher Education Commission has approved the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation as a training provider for Drywall and Painting Courses. The curriculum will include the following National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) certificated courses: Core Curriculum, Drywall Installation / Dry Waller, and Painting / Painter and Wall Coverer. Total time to complete the three courses will be approximately nine (9) weeks for two hundred twenty-five (225) hours of class content. (All first-year apprenticeship training programs contain the Core Curriculum, which is a total of 72.5 hours, and covers the following: Basic Safety, Introduction to Construction Math, Introduction to Hand Tools, Introduction to Power Tools, Introduction to Blueprints, Basic Communication Skills, and Basic Employability Skills.) The Painting course will consist of approximately eighty (80) hours of training and the Drywall will consist of approximately seventy-four and one-half (74.5) hours.

7. The State of Maryland has approved the use of National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) training materials for apprenticeship training. The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation is accredited by NCCER and has the ability to issue training certificates through NCCER for all participants who complete the pre-apprenticeship training. The Foundation will also ensure that all completed training may be transferred into approved NCCER apprenticeship training programs nationwide.

8. All instructors have been certified by a Master Trainer to use the NCCER materials. The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation has a master trainer that will review all training records and submit the required documentation to NCCER for each graduating participant to receive their individual course completion certificates.

9. Upon completion of the Pre-Apprenticeship courses, students will receive three (3) NCCER (nationally recognized) certificates.

10. Students will then enter a Workforce Preparedness course offered by Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake, Inc. Students will be transported by DPSCS to the Lower Shore Career Center in Salisbury, MD to focus on content related to work ethics, conflict resolution, time management, stress and anger management, money management, and career development. This course is approximately eighteen to twenty hours (18-20) and will take approximately one (1) week. Students will be awarded a certificate from Goodwill upon completion.

11. The entire program, Employment Readiness, Pre-Apprenticeship Training, and Workforce Preparedness, will take approximately fourteen (14) weeks per group. *There are students at PHPRU that have taken the Employment Readiness course at other institutions and therefore would not need to repeat the class at PHPRU. Those students could move directly into the Pre-Apprenticeship Training thus eliminating four (4) weeks from the program.

12. As each group of ten (10) completes the entire program, Graduation will be held at Poplar Hill Pre-Release. Graduates will be able to invite a limited number of family/guests to attend. Representatives from the agencies involved with the program will be an integral part of the service.

13. DPSCS Case Managers, working in conjunction with the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, Goodwill, and other local agencies, will seek live work / apprenticeship opportunities in the community for graduates. Examples of area organizations to approach for live work opportunities include (but are not limited to): Habitat for Humanity, Salisbury Ministerial Alliance, Board of Education for Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Salisbury University, and Wor-Wic Community College. A high priority will be to gain work-release employment for graduates.

14. Upon release, program participants will be tracked by Case Management through Parole and Probation Case Notes, and DLLR through the Maryland New Hire Registry, to identify students working within the training areas which they received. Through DLLR, using Social Security Number information, employment tracking will be done. Tracking data will be formulated into a spreadsheet with monthly updates. Data such as program completion, release data, employment, new arrest (if applicable), and cause of re-offense (if applicable), will be analyzed.

15. After release, participants will be encouraged to continue their relationship with Goodwill Industries in Salisbury, MD thus making Goodwill a "home base" for them in the community. Additionally, participants will receive a card with a 24 hour number to call for assistance. This number will be a telephone line housed at Poplar Hill Pre-Release.

16. Monthly meetings with released graduates will take place. Such meetings will be either during the Parole & Probation meeting or at an established time and place for a group meeting. These meetings will assist with monitoring employment success as well as assistance with areas of difficulty graduates are experiencing.

17. Graduates from the program will be encouraged to return to Poplar Hill Pre-Release as part of the Orientation Panel. As each group completes the program and students are released into the community, a mentoring relationship will be established with those who have been previously released. Again, this serves as an additional support system.

18. The cost for the entire program is $1,000 per student. Five (5) groups of ten (10) students per group will participate. This is a total fifty (50) students in the first year.

19. For future exploration: Establishing a class for released PHPRU inmates (on Parole & Probation) that would like to take the program but did not while incarcerated; and training PHPRU inmates in green initiative work and having them provide the labor (live-work).