Correctional facility One-Stop helps inmates prepare for employment

In a unique venture that may be the only one of its kind in the country, MongtomeryWorks of Montgomery County, Md. sponsors a One-Stop Career Center at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in the town of Boyds.

Operated by Workforce Solutions Group, this One-Stop serves a facility that houses as many as 1,028 male and female inmates, who are either in pre-trial or serving terms of up to 18 months.

The One-Stop Career Center consists of a computer lab, an ID center to handle the identification documents they will need and a television room with instructional job search-related videos, as well as a room to practice interviews. Inmates are allowed restricted use of the internet and able to access only a small number of job search related sites. The One-Stop staff consists of a trainer, a reentry coordinator and an administrative staff member.

“We can have anywhere from 25-plus people over the course of a month who will participate in job readiness training,” says Yolanda Tully, director of operations at Workforce Solutions Group Inc. of Montgomery County.  Her staff recruits inmates who are 180 days out from being released to participate in job-readiness training.

Participants complete a four- to six-part series of training modules, which are given in one-and-a-half hour sessions three days each week. In addition to the full curriculum, the One-Stop offers modules for people who might not need the entire program because of time limitations or because it’s too basic, based on an assessment of their abilities.

About 40 to 75 additional people take advantage of the center’s resource and the main volunteers who are involved in the program. The Montgomery County Correctional Facility and MontgomeryWorks Reentry Employment Program developed Careers4 Tomorrow, an initiative to train faith based and community volunteers to work in the One-Stop

In addition, members of Mover Moms, a Bethesda-based group of more than 200 professional women dedicated to community service, come in on Wednesdays to conduct mock interviews.

In some ways this is a regular One-Stop dedicated to help its clients prepare to find employment, but it has very unique challenges not faced in other locations.

“There could be a lockdown and you can’t get the inmates there. Or there could be a day when our staff is just focusing on the administrative work,” says Tully. There are times that getting the list of people who are eligible can be a challenge, because they have to be sentenced individuals, and Tully’s staff has to generate a list of these people in order to do the recruitment. Staff members also have to make sure the guards are reminding the inmates of the different programs, she adds.

Businesses come to recruit at the center each week, but those who don’t have jobs upon release can visit a Baltimore One-Stop that’s dedicated to serving only ex-offenders or another One-Stop Career Center close to where they end up settling.

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