PEN PRODUCTS MAKES RE-ENTRY MOVES
By Becky Deeb, New Enterprise Development Manager, PEN Products
PEN Products, the correctional industries division of the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC), continues to fulfill its mission by providing offenders with a work ethic and job skills, preparing them to be job-ready upon their release. While continuing to focus on employment and increasing offender jobs inside Indiana’s prisons, great strides are also being made in helping to prepare offenders for post release. “PEN has created offender
jobs at its new central office, is holding Career Path Planning Workshops, has implemented Job Clubs, is focused on the U.S. Department of Labor Apprenticeship programs, has developed Career Resource Centers, and is tracking post–release
employment,” states Director Mike Herron.
Central Office Move
On March 1, 2010, PEN Products moved its central office administration and showroom to the grounds of the Indianapolis Re-entry and Education Facility (IREF). IREF is a 370 adult male facility focusing on long term sentenced offenders that are within three years of their release to the Indianapolis area. PEN Products’ move to a building with outside access allows for 31 resident offenders to work within PEN administrative functions, including: finance, marketing and sales, and building administration. The offender residents are learning job skills and are involved in the business activities of customer service, accounting, office administration, and building maintenance.
Additionally, a crew of residents is also involved in an outside moving crew, moving offices for state agencies across the state. The resident offenders work up to seven hours per day at the PEN Products central office where they are learning and using business software while obtaining experience in a professional, business environment.
Career Path Planning Workshops
To date, twelve Career Path Planning Workshops have been held throughout the state of Indiana. These workshops provide interaction and joint participation of offenders and outside professionals, including: IDOC and PEN Products staff, post-release service providers, criminal justice professors and students, and workforce development staffers. The focus of these all day workshops is to look beyond that first post-release job and focus on a career approach by matching both job skills and interests to find a career suited to the individual. The main topics covered are career theory, job retention, and time management. Over 300 offenders and 100 staff members have participated in the Career Path Planning Workshops. Going forward, PEN Products will hold one workshop per month at different locations across the state.
A follow up to the Career Path Planning Workshops, Job Clubs are held monthly and offer offenders that have successfully completed the Career Path Planning Workshop an opportunity to further their job readiness by focusing on resume writing, completing job applications, interviewing, and soft skills. College professors, employment professionals and ex-offenders who have been successful in finding and retaining post-release employment often visit the Job Clubs as guest speakers.
The goal is for the Job Club to offer offenders up to twelve modules covering topics such as:
• Job retention
• Job searches
• Soft skills
• Time management
• Resume writing
• Problem solving
• Decision making
• Career employment approach
• Interviewing skills
Career Resource Centers
Based on the National Institute of Corrections’ DVD series PEN Products has opened two Career Resource Centers, one at the Westville Correctional Facility and another at the PEN Products central office. These offender-run centers offer self-service training where offenders can learn:
• Computer skills
• OSHA work place safety
• First aid
• Trade specific curriculums
• Completion of job applications
• Resume and cover letter writing
The Career Resource Center’s main focus is to better prepare the offender with the skills and training necessary to become effective when searching for employment. The training will provide a sense of integrity that is strongly needed for those to achieve success in the workforce upon release. The Career Resource Center provides offenders with the opportunity to research information about employment, education, and community resources.
U.S. Department of Labor Apprenticeship Program
PEN Products continues its emphasis on certified training documentation through continuing participation in the U.S Department of Labor Apprenticeship program. “Since its implementation in 2006, over 900 offenders have earned their apprenticeships, and 1,134 offenders are currently enrolled in an apprenticeship program,” comments Doug Evans, Operations and Job Placement Manager. PEN Products offers apprenticeships in 31
trade specific occupations. Offenders must complete between 2,000 and 8,000 hours of on-the job training and 144 hours of related documented training for every 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. This program has won the Indiana Governor’s Public Service Achievement Award (see article from Summer 2010 issue of NCIA News) and by providing sentence cuts for graduates has saved Indiana taxpayers over $4 million.
“Over 900 offenders have earned their apprenticeships, and 1,134 offenders are currently enrolled in an apprenticeship program.”
PEN Products is now tracking the post-release employment of offenders that have taken advantage of the programs outlined above. Andrew was one such previous PEN Products worker. He had earned his Material Coordinator Apprenticeship and took his certificate with him to an employment interview. During the interview, he showed the certificate to the interviewer and was asked how he had earned this certification during his time of incarceration. After Andrew explained how he completed the Apprenticeship program
and his actual work experience and job skills gained through PEN Products, the interviewer responded by saying, “that is exactly what we need here…” The interviewer
even offered Andrew a better position at a higher wage than the job for which he had applied.
Andrew shared with PEN Products that, “this is a prime example of how important the Apprenticeship Program is to the rehabilitation of offenders … it shows how it can help you find a job so that you may become a productive citizen once again.”
Ex-offenders are finding employment after release, mostly as a result of their time spent employed by PEN Products. They are learning job skills inside, obtaining certified credentials, earning sentence cuts, preparing for a job search, and then finding and, most importantly, retaining employment upon release. PEN Products’ hope is that as these programs continue and as more offenders reach their release date, data will support the antidotal results obtained so far and lead to show an even further reduction in recidivism.
In the meantime, PEN Products is Changing Lives… One Job at a Time.