I met Haines the first time I visited San Quentin State Prison. He has worked in various editing positions at San Quentin News, one of the country’s only prison newspapers, for almost a decade. There, he helps produce a 20-page paper every month with only a few computers and no Internet access. The results reach 30,000 incarcerated and free subscribers across the United States.
A growing demand for clean energy employees led the Minnesota Department of Corrections earlier this year to offer a solar installation course to two classes of inmates prior to their release dates. Held last spring and summer, 30 men took the 48-hour solar installer training course from instructors working with the Wisconsin-based Midwest Renewable Energy Association. The nonprofit used the same course it offers members of the general public.
The program is testing whether participation in educational opportunities increases after access to financial aid for incarcerated adults is expanded. It is also examining how waiving the restriction on providing Pell Grants to individuals incarcerated in federal or state prisons influences academic and life outcomes.
Pennsylvania has a new idea to help lower recidivism rates. Two state agencies have launched a pilot program that teaches financial literacy to inmates at state prisons through a course on credit and banking basics. The class is a collaboration between the Department of Corrections and the Department of Banking and Securities.
We have found that inmates too often do not have fundamental knowledge, skills or experience to face the complex financial realities of life. Upon reentry into society, too often they repeat poor financial decisions that helped put them on the path to incarceration.
The Iron Workers Local 751 is working with the Fairbanks Correctional Facility teaching basic iron working skills. The 40 foot trailer is mobile, which gives the union an opportunity to reach a specific group of people with resources on hand.
Crops tended by Scott County Detention Center inmates help offset the facility’s operating costs, but gardening also helps the detainees’ personal growth, jail officials said. The garden has provided around 770 pounds of food to the inmates this year while extras go to charities.
Norwegian prisons reject life sentences and solitary confinement in favor of living quarters built on a human scale, behavioral counseling and a focus on successful reentry into society. Norway reports two-year recidivism rates as low as 20 percent, compared to rates three times higher in the U.S.
The three-hour course covers basic employment rights, legal rights for applicants with a criminal record, criminal record error correction and sealing law, said Esta R. Bigler, who is the director of Cornell University’s ILR Labor and Employment Law Program.
In jail, reading can be a lifeline to the world outside of the cell, a connection to normalcy — or an escape to complete fantasy. In the insular, barred world of a county lockup, it’s a way to keep the days full and the tensions low.