The Maryland Department of Corrections releases approximately 8,000 people from prison each year into Baltimore City. Almost 60% of releasees have not received any job preparation training, transition planning, and consequently, no linkages to workforce development agencies and other community-based services. The result is an estimated 50% recidivism rate for persons formerly incarcerated and a decrease in public safety.
As Ernest Jordan, 31, was preparing to leave the Maryland Transition Center (MTC) he wasn’t sure what he was going to do upon release. After serving nine months in prison he wasn’t prepared to handle the requirements of the outside world or even go about finding employment. With a limited work history, and a criminal record, the odds were stacked against him. While at the MTC—inside “the fence”— he was one of the lucky ones, he had come to know the work of Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake’s SEETTS (Supporting Ex-Offenders in Employment, Training, and Transitional Services) program. This knowledge counted heavily; upon release, a continuing relationship with SEETTS gave him the opportunity to turn his life around.
Through the SEETTS program, Ernest worked on employment skills, developed a resume, and began interviewing for jobs. When a position opened at the Goodwill store in Security Station, Ernest was interviewed and was hired. Today, he is a sales associate, a productive citizen, supporting his wife and two children.
SEETTS, a collaboration between Goodwill and the Maryland Department of Corrections, is supported by The Abell Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Knott Foundation, and the Lockhart Vaughan Foundation. The program provides workforce development services to inmates during the last phase of their incarceration. These services are comprised of vocational evaluations, job readiness training, counseling, service coordination, job placement, and post-placement support services. The goal of the project is to show that training, employment and support services provided before an ex-offender’s release will better enable them to become employed, productive and self-sufficient individuals, and reduce recidivism. Together, these benefits enhance overall public safety and lead to more stable communities.
Since the program’s inception, Goodwill has served 258 individuals “inside the fence,” and an additional 380 ex-offenders from the community. Nearly all (95%) of the SEETTS participants from the MTC are repeat offenders, incarcerated for simple possession of drugs or intent to distribute. Goodwill has placed a total of 245 ex-offenders into jobs from March 2001 to November 2002. For all of the individuals placed through both SEETTS at the MTC and the community, wages average $8.50 with benefits and career advancement opportunities.
The Abell Foundation salutes SEETTS and Goodwill vice-president Philip Holmes, for helping to turn lives around on both sides of “the fence.”