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Educational Programs Help Reduce Recidivism in Iowa

Recidivism is down substantially at Iowa correctional facilities where DMACC offers educational and vocational training. (DariuszSankowski/Pixabay)
Recidivism is down substantially at Iowa correctional facilities where DMACC offers educational and vocational training. (DariuszSankowski/Pixabay)
December 4, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa – Getting on the right track can be challenging for people leaving the prison system, and some Iowa programs are giving them a head start before their release.

Hollie Coon oversees Des Moines Area Community College's educational programs at Newton Correctional Facility and Iowa Correction Institute for Women.

She says a criminal history and lack of education can prevent those who are re-entering society from finding a job that can support their families.

The educational programs help men and women behind bars finish high school, and learn important life skills to gain employment.

"This is a program that allows offenders to get experience with mock interviews, resume writing,” Coon explains. “They also work on Microsoft Word to get their computer skills up to where they need to be. There's a lot of guest speakers that come into the prisons for that class."

Coon says last year, 120 people earned their high school equivalency diplomas through the program.

DMACC estimates that its education and training programs have reduced recidivism from 27 percent to 9 percent.

DMACC also partners with Central Iowa Works and Goodwill Industries for vocational training in transportation, distribution and logistics.

The program provides support after release, and helps connect graduates with employers.

Of more than 80 people who completed the program last year, Coon says half now have jobs.

"We have several of them that have not been released yet, too, so it'll be great to be able to track those folks,” she states. “A big piece of it is just making sure that they're connected with somebody, and that they have a place to go if they have questions or if they need assistance.”

Coon adds the education program is fortunate to have strong collaborations with those involved, including the Department of Corrections, which provides funding.

"They've had a lot of other prisons in the state ask us about the program and how we're doing it, and what different opportunities that we are providing,” she states. “So, it's exciting for DMACC to be able to be on the front end of doing something innovative with Corrections."

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA