WSD - Windham School District
JOBview 2nd chance gives offenders head start
There’s an old saying: "You don’t work, you don’t eat." That’s the simple fact of life in society where being employed means the difference between sleeping in an apartment or under a bridge. For an ex-felon, especially one on parole, the situation is even more crucial. Gainful employment is often the difference between freedom and incarceration. Not having a reliable source of legitimate financial support leaves ex-felons more susceptible to recidivism as they may resort to criminal activity to survive.
A newly–released offender is under pressure to find a job to pay parole fees, to pay expenses wherever they are residing, and in general, to rebuild life after a years-long hiatus. With the above in mind, finding a job is of the utmost importance, but the job search can be a frustrating ordeal. There are a limited number of jobs matching the job seekers’ qualifications, and there is a limited window of time per day to spend looking. Then there is the question that lurks in the back of every ex-offender’s mind: will my felony conviction prevent me from getting this job?
Wouldn’t it be a great thing if an offender could begin the job search before he or she even got out of prison? Wouldn’t it be great to have a head start and practically have a job waiting upon release? Modern technology just may have an answer.
Windham School District (WSD), in partnership with TDCJ, is introducing a standalone kiosk: JOBview 2ndChance.
It allows people returning to the community from prisons and jails to search for jobs. JOBview 2ndChance kiosks are "prison-ready" because the user does not have access to a keyboard or to the Internet. The offender selects the city and type of job, and jobs are searched using a touch screen interface, controlling and limiting what the user can see and do. Company names, job descriptions, and job application requirements and instructions, can be printed directly from the kiosk to assist the user with later follow-up. JOBview 2ndChance provides access to nearly two million job listings nationwide.
JOBview definitely has the approval of Veronica Casanova, director of WSD Instructional Services Division.
"We’re very excited to expand access to JOBview for our students. Preparation is key to successful reintegration. JOBview provides current, relevant information to releasing offenders so that they can hit the ground ready for employment," Casanova said.
JOBview benefits the offender in a number of ways. They get a 30 to 90 day head start on their job search and they have the opportunity to practice electronic job-searching, a technology they commonly encounter upon release.
JOBview lets offenders find jobs based on the particular experience or interest they may have. "I have previous experience as a grill cook and would like to work at a restaurant chain when I get out. Through JOBview, I learned that I would have to send this restaurant chain a resume to be considered for the job," a JOBview user from the Dominguez State Jail said.
"The JOBview kiosk has been very useful for a lot of people. It gives offenders focus on certain available jobs prior to release. It has given several inmates hope in getting the jobs they found on the kiosk," a teacher’s aid on the Lychner Unit said.
JOBview also benefits correctional facilities that choose to implement it. One significant advantage of JOBview is that it frees staff from the time consuming activity of finding and printing out job listings for offenders who are about to re-enter society. In fact, JOBview requires no staff at all to operate. JOBview is self-service and requires no training because its user interface is self explanatory. To date, the JOBview 2ndChance kiosks are available on five state jail units: Dominguez, Hutchins, Plane, Gist and Lychner.
In order to take advantage of JOBview, an offender on the above listed units submits an I-60 to the unit librarian requesting a session. When the request is granted, the offender will have the opportunity to access the JOBview database. It is updated one to two times per month and features thousands of jobs both state and nationwide. According to an offender at Gist State Jail, "I will be going home soon and now know what jobs are available. I feel that my chances of finding a job are greater after using JOBview."
The newly released ex-offender has a number of fundamental objectives that he or she will need to meet on the path to productive social re-entry. JOBview 2nd Chance is a way for the offender to accomplish one of the most significant of those objectives before ever leaving the institution. This lowers the risk for recidivism and increases the chance for success. Hopefully, JOBview 2nd Chance will be the only chance an ex-offender needs.
Reprinted from The ECHO.
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BY NICOLE WILCOX
Published September 2, 2015
Reprinted courtesy of The Navasota Examiner
Reporter Nicole Wilcox of the Navasota Examiner recently visited the Luther Unit for a first-hand look at Windham School District and how correctional education is helping offenders prepare for a successful life after release. Her positive report is shared below, courtesy of The Navasota Examiner.
Most residents can recall four school districts within the county - Navasota, Anderson-Shiro, Iola and Richards – but there are actually five fully operational districts in our community.
Often forgotten about, the teachers of the Windham School District don’t have bus duty, lunch duty or parent conferences. What they do have is a school surrounded by security fencing and guard towers.
The Windham School District operates within 89 different Texas Department of Criminal Justice units, including both the Luther and Pack units in Navasota. The school district’s goals, as stated by Texas Education Code 19.003, are to reduce the odds of relapse and the cost of confinement or imprisonment, increase the success of former inmates in obtaining and maintaining employment, and provide an incentive for inmates to behave in positive ways during confinement or imprisonment.
An individualized treatment plan is created for each offender, taking into account age, program availability, projected release date and varying needs of the offender. To accommodate those needs, the school district has different sections, including literacy and GED programs, career and technical education programs, and life skills programs.
“We are trying to put you in contact with jobs that will change your life,” Windham School District Superintendent Dr. Clint Carpenter said last week to a group of offenders in the vocational program of the Luther Unit.
The latest reports from the 2013-14 school year show 59,678 offenders statewide received WSD educational services. Of these offenders, 66 percent were able to attain a GED or high school diploma or showed significant gains in educational achievements. In addition to normal education classes, Windham offers offenders cognitive intervention and CHANGES programs designed to change the way they handle situations to prevent criminal behavior. CHANGES is an acronym for changing habits and achieving new goals to empower success.
“I really believe in this program,” said CHANGES teacher Victoria Koehn. “Most of them really want to change but don’t know how. When the environment is right, they really open up.”
Those entered into CHANGES are within two years of getting out of the system. It is a 14-week program that includes role- playing scenarios and a seven-step system of behavior awareness that includes saying no to drugs, civic responsibility, healthy relationship development, apologies and amends, job interview skills and being open to change.
“The healthy relationship development is a big deal,” said Koehn. “Research shows that one good relationship is enough of a motivator to stay free.”
If an offender has obtained a GED or high school diploma, they are eligible for vocational or college courses. Within the Luther Unit, a few of these courses include electrical, welding and computerized numerical computation. The computerized numerical control course deals with machining fabrication. The majority of fabrication and machining shops in the industry are moving to computerization because the machines are capable of being accurate to within 1/10000 of an inch.
“The majority of these guys are at 250 hours right now and can do the majority of the machine’s programming,” said instructor Mike Klodginksi.
The participating offenders in the computerized numerical computation course will be eligible for entry- level industry certification when they complete the minimum 600 hours of coursework and can opt for an additional 300 hours of advancement.
Electrical instructor Frank Goodman has simulated a work environment within his classroom with each student having an independent stall and project board. He is a firm believer in peer tutoring and teaches students that intrinsic motivation is self-motivation.
“I see my son in each of my students,” said Goodman. “I just want you to get paid for your knowledge.”
Like the majority of the WSD vocational classes, Goodman’s electrical course is six to nine months long, and the students are eligible for first or second year apprenticeship depending on the time put into the training.
“This was a blessing for me. I had an apprentice license before I was incarcerated. I had the opportunity to go to school, but I wouldn’t do it. This made me come to school and work on becoming a journeyman. I have an opportunity to go back to work with LECS and work for them. I am retaining the info I knew when I was working,” said offender Antonio Rivera Camacho.
Everyone within WSD has a story. An overwhelming majority of the inmates talk about their families as motivation for participating. For the instructors and administrators, it is often a calling that differs from the course of their previous life.
Welding instructor Van Campbell was a 20-year member of the ironworkers union in Cincinnati before the birth of his first grandchild made him and his wife move to Texas. When asked if he would encourage anyone else to follow in his footsteps, Campbell replied, “As a teacher, yes! It is very gratifying. I’d hire any one of these guys when they leave my class.”
'We are Windham' video proudly explains why, how WSD changes lives. Now available online. - "We are Windham. We are ready for change. We are second chances for men and women formerly incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. We change our society." So begins "We are Windham," a recruitment and informational video created by WSD explaining why Windham focuses on helping offenders across Texas become job-ready and change their lives for success upon release.
January 2015 is School Board Recognition Month - January 2015 is School Board Recognition Month, and the Windham School District proudly recognizes the crucial role of its Board of Trustees in the lives of offender students and the future of Texas.
Special strategic planning committee meets for life skills review - Updates and effective revisions to WSD life skills programs were the focus of a two-day strategic planning meeting held Jan. 21-22 in Huntsville. WSD teachers, academic specialists, regional administrators and principals; former Board of Trustee members, current TDCJ partners, university researchers, and community stakeholders came together as a special committee to offer input on WSD life skills curriculum revisions.
Congressman John Cornyn observes job training at San Antonio Food Bank - U.S. Sen. John Cornyn recently took a tour of training programs at the San Antonio Food Bank, accompanied by WSD Superintendent Dr. Clint Carpenter, WSD Dominguez State Jail Principal Teresa Craiker and senior staff from TDCJ.