By Kevin Lam
As part of their orientation process, incarcerated individuals at the all-male Queensboro Correctional Facility in Queens, New York are now required to take a “Know Your Employment Rights” course operated by Cornell’s ILR school.
The course covers employment rights and strategies for reintegrating these inmates into the workforce after their release. It is taught by Esta R. Bigler ’70, director of the ILR Labor and Employment Law Program, and Tim McNutt, a former prosecutor who now works as managing director of the Cornell Project for Records Assistance.
The education program at the facility is especially applicable to students at Queensboro as the institution is a transitional facility, holding inmates for only 30 to 120 days before release, according to McNutt.
“[These individuals] are very smart, they are interested in improving themselves, they take good notes, [and] they ask incredibly good questions and [have] a great sense of humor,” Bigler told The Sun.
Criminal records often contain errors and the course is particularly important to help individuals understand their records and how to correct any errors they might find, McNutt said.
“After someone is sentenced, if I ask them 15 minutes later of their conviction or what they just pleaded guilty of, many people don’t understand,” McNutt said of his time as a prosecutor. “This causes problems when they go apply for a job.”