About one in three Allegheny County Jail inmates who don't receive job training while incarcerated wind up back in the lockup within 12 months. But that rate is cut in half if they participate in the Jail Collaborative's education program.
Now 100 inmates, men and women, will receive technical training toward careers in the energy industry in hopes of further reducing that rate of recidivism.
The Department of Human Services and the County Jail will use a $614,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help prepare the prisoners to pursue post-release careers in jobs as technicians in industrial maintenance, machining, energy engineering and renewable energy.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the “Career Tech” project is an expansion of the county’s efforts to reduce recidivism among inmates.
“It was funding from the Department of Justice that helped establish our successful Reentry Program, and now this additional funding is an important reinvestment in that program, as those aided will have the skills they need to find decent employment after incarceration.”
Through the project the inmates will begin training up to a year prior to release and continue the training after leaving the jail along with other support services and case management that are already part of the county’s Reentry Program. The initial training will include some basic education especially in improving math skills “because that will come with a lot of the employment opportunities,” said Jail Deputy Warden Latoya Warren.
“So it starts with us preparing these individuals to go into these training opportunities, making sure they have the appropriate level of education, and from there they will meet with a career assessment person who will explain to them all the opportunities that we have available to them,” Warren said.
Warren believes the project will reduce the recidivism rate “by creating new career pathways for offenders."
She said the project focuses on the energy industry because they’re always looking to include training that will “lead to realistic opportunities” for inmates.
“We just don’t want to set up false expectations with our training programs and we want to connect our population with industries that will are willing to give them a second chance,” Warren said.
Instructors from New Century Careers and the Community College of Allegheny County will provide the specific job-related training.
The project will also leverage money provided by foundations to reward successful outcomes — inmates getting jobs in the energy industry after release.
Erin Dalton, a deputy director with the county Department of Human Services, said they have two goals for this project.
“One, we’ll prepare inmates for careers that will give them jobs so that they are contributing to society; and two, that they are no longer committing crimes and coming back to the county jail," Dalton said. "Both of those things will save the county money which will allow us to reinvest in programs that continue to reduce recidivism.”