Nearly Half of Prisoners Lack Access to Vocational Training

By Christopher Zoukis In the ongoing discussion of prison reform, mass incarceration and reducing recidivism, vocational programs are often overlooked in favor of formal educational courses and other activities and programming. Maybe it is assumed that most incarcerated individuals have

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Changes to Pennsylvania DOC Improves Life for Prisoners, Staff

By Christopher Zoukis The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spent 2016 making laudable strides toward helping improve the state of mass incarceration in this country. Corrections Secretary John Wetzel made a statement in December outlining improvements the Department of Corrections (DOC)

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Australian program seeks to break the recidivism cycle through education

Prisoners in the state of Victoria, Australia, will be part of new plans designed to try and meet prisoners’ educational needs immediately upon entry into the system. The $78 million (AUD) program aims to dramatically improve prisoner access to instruction from

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Fort Bend to Offer Vocational Education to Some Inmates

By Rebecca Elliott / Houston Chronicle  Image courtesy 2onthebeat.wordpress.com- Bags of chips, pairs of tennis shoes, packages of Ramen noodles. Over the years, revenue from purchases made by inmates at the Fort Bend County jail’s commissary have added up. Now,

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New Zealand Puts Prisons to Work

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy www.odt.co.nz-

As part of a sustained initiative to decrease crime rates in the country, the New Zealand government is placing a major emphasis on getting today’s prisoners ready for employment when they go home. 

New Zealand’s crime rate is at a 35-year low, but the government intends to maintain the downward trajectory.  Its aim is to reduce crime by a further 20% by 2017.  Since repeat offenses by ex-cons make up a significant proportion of crimes, a major part of the strategy is to reduce re-offending by those who are already serving time.

The Department of Corrections aims to reduce re-offending by 25%.  Since a key factor in deciding whether a released offender will go straight or end up back behind bars is their employment status, a substantial effort is underway to ensure that inmates gain the skills and qualifications they need to obtain and keep a job.

Vocational training for real jobs.

Programs are being designed to lead to nationally-recognized qualifications that future employers will be happy to accept.  An example is the fifteen-week course leading to the National Certificate in Fitness Foundation Skills, which started at Rimutaka Prison in August.  Students are learning about nutrition, exercise, health and safety, customer services, and business practices in the fitness industry.

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New Jersey’s Jailhouse Goldmine: A Moral Obligation to Provide Effective Rehabilitation?

By Christopher Zoukis

Like most municipalities, Cumberland County in southern New Jersey needs to raise its revenues.  Last year it found a very effective way to do just that: fill up its jail.

Jails as For-Profit Businesses

While most of the developed world see institutions like hospitals, universities, and prisons as essential public services, the reality is that they are also businesses.  Patients, students, and prisoners are commodities to be traded.  These men and women are at a vulnerable time in their lives and need the best that the world’s richest country can offer them, but instead the institutions charged with their care look to see how they can profit from them.

Cumberland County Jail: Selling Jail Space

In 2013 Gloucester County officials decided to close their jail.  To the south, Cumberland County Jail’s population had fallen by almost two hundred over the preceding five years leaving empty beds.  The two counties agreed to a deal, and the first inmates from Gloucester County arrived at Cumberland County Jail, in Bridgeport, in June 2013.  Today there are usually at least a hundred Gloucester County inmates in Cumberland Jail at any given time.

The deal gives Cumberland County $10,000 a day for the first hundred inmates, then $83 a day for each additional one.  For one hundred Gloucester County inmates, Cumberland County stands to make $3.65 million each year.  Indeed, in the first fourteen months they have billed Gloucester County over $4.3 million.

Cumberland Freeholder Director Joseph Derella sees the program as an example of the county developing much needed new sources of revenue.  He believes the program is exceeding expectations and wants to extend it further.

Jail Populations as an Indicator of Success?

In what Cumberland County Jail’s Warden Bob Balicki sees as an unintended but beneficial program, the municipal and New Jersey State Police are now locking up around seventy more people a month than they were before the program started, thus boosting the jail population even higher.  Despite all the extra inmates at the jail, Warden Balicki has seen no need for extra staff.

Although many inmates remain in local jails for just a short time, many others can spend a year or more serving sentences or simply waiting out lengthy court proceedings before being sent to state prison.  It’s a miserable and anxious time, and being held further away from families and friends means fewer visits, and widens rifts between inmates and those on the outside.

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Alabama Will Spend $5.4 Million For Inmate College Courses

By Christopher Zoukis In 2015, Alabama will spend $5.4 million on its prisoner postsecondary education program, to include Calhoun Community College’s courses at Limestone Correctional Facility. Five schools across the state provide college-level certifications.  The Community College courses are separate

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